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Title: The Australian Victories in France in 1918
Author: Monash, Sir John
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Lieut.-General Sir John Monash, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., V.D.,
D.C.L., LL.D.]



G.C.M.G., K.C.B., V.D., D.C.L., LL.D.

With 9 Folding Maps in Colour and 31 Illustrations

London: Hutchinson & Co.
Paternoster Row

  to the
  who by his military virtues, and by his deeds
  in battle, has earned for himself a
  place in history which none
  can challenge


The following pages, of which I began the compilation when still
engaged in the arduous work of Repatriation of the Australian troops
in all theatres of war, were intended to be something in the nature
of a consecutive and comprehensive story of the Australian Imperial
Force in France during the closing phases of the Great War. I soon
found that the time at my disposal was far too limited to allow me to
make full use of the very voluminous documentary material which I had
collected during the campaign. The realization of such a project must
await a time of greater leisure. So much as I have had the opportunity
of setting down has, therefore, inevitably taken the form rather of
an individual memoir of this stirring period. While I feel obliged to
ask the indulgence of the reader for the personal character of the
present narrative, this may not be altogether a disadvantage. Having
regard to the responsibilities which it fell to my lot to bear, it may,
indeed, be desirable that I should in all candour set down what was
passing in my mind, and should attempt to describe the ever-changing
external circumstances which operated to guide and form the judgments
and decisions which it became my duty to make from day to day. It may
be that hereafter my exercise of command in the field and the manner in
which I made use of the opportunities which presented themselves will
be the subject of criticism. I welcome this, provided that the facts
and the events of the time are known to and duly weighed by the critic.

My purpose has been to describe in broad outline the part played by
the Australian Army Corps in the closing months of the war, and I have
based upon that record somewhat large claims on behalf of the Corps. It
would have overloaded the story to include in it any larger number of
extracts from original documents than has been done. I may, however,
assert with confidence that the statements, statistics and deductions
made can be verified by reference to authoritative sources.

The photographs have been selected from a very large number taken,
during the fighting and often under fire, by Captain G. H. Wilkins,
M.C. The maps have been prepared under my personal supervision, and are
compiled from the official battle maps in actual use by me during the



  CHAP.                                                PAGE
         PREFACE                                          v
     I.--BACK TO THE SOMME                               18
    II.--THE DEFENCE OF AMIENS                           36
   III.--HAMEL                                           51
    IV.--TURNING THE TIDE                                69
     V.--THE BATTLE PLAN                                 81
    VI.--THE BATTLE PLAN (_continued_)                   97
   VII.--THE CHASE BEGINS                               115
  VIII.--EXPLOITATION                                   133
    IX.--CHUIGNES                                       148
     X.--PURSUIT                                        164
    XI.--MONT ST. QUENTIN AND PÉRONNE                   182
   XII.--A LULL                                         198
  XIII.--HARGICOURT                                     214
   XIV.--AMERICA JOINS IN                               235
    XV.--BELLICOURT AND BONY                            254
   XVI.--MONTBREHAIN AND AFTER                          271
  XVII.--RESULTS                                        284
         APPENDIX A                                     299
         APPENDIX B                                     300
         APPENDIX C                                     317
         INDEX                                          345


  A--The Advances of the Third Division--March to
       May, 1918                          _Facing page_  32
  B--Battle of Hamel, July 4th, 1918                "    64
  C--Battle of August 8th, 1918                     "   144
  D--Battle of Chuignes and Bray, August 23rd, 1918 "   160
  E--Péronne and Mont St. Quentin                   "   192
  F--Advances of Australian Corps, September 2nd to
       17th, 1918                                   "   208
  G--Battle of September 18th, 1918                 "   224
  H--Breaching of Hindenburg Defences               "   272
  J--Australian Corps Campaign                      "   288


       Lieut.-General Sir John Monash, G.C.M.G.,
         K.C.B., V.D., D.C.L., LL.D.                 _Frontispiece_
   1.--The  Australian Corps Commander--with the
         Generals of his Staff                      _Facing page_ 14
   2.--The  Valley of the Somme--looking east towards
         Bray, which was then still in enemy hands        "       15
   3.--German  Prisoners--taken by the Corps at
         Hamel, being marched to the rear                 "       40
   4.--Visit  of M. Clemenceau--group taken at Bussy,
        July 7th, 1918                                    "       41
   5.--Railway  Gun, 11.2-inch Bore--captured near
        Rosières on August 8th, 1918                      "       66
   6.--German  Depot of Stores--captured on August
        8th, 1918                                         "       67
   7.--Tanks marching into Battle                         "       96
   8.--Morcourt  Valley--the Australian attack swept
        across this on August 8th, 1918                   "       97
   9.--Dug-outs  at Froissy-Beacon--being "mopped
        up" during battle                                 "      112
  10.--Péronne--barricade  in main street                 "      113
  11.--Burning Villages--east of Péronne                  "      128
  12.--Dummy  Tank Manufacture                            "      129
  13.--The Canal and Tunnel at Bellicourt--looking
        north                                             "      152
  14.--The Hindenburg Line--a characteristic belt of
        sunken wire                                       "      153
  15.--Final Instructions to the Platoon--an incident
        of the battle of August 8th, 1918. The
        platoon is waiting to advance to Phase B of
        the battle                                        "      176
  16.--An Armoured Car--disabled near Bony, during
        the battle of September 29th, 1918                "      177
  17.--The Hindenburg Line Wire--near Bony                 "      198
  18.--The 15-inch Naval Gun--captured at Chuignes
        August 23rd, 1918                                 "      199
  19.--Australian Artillery--going into action at
        Cressaire Wood                                    "      218
  20.--Battle  of August 8th, 1918--German prisoners
        being brought out of the battle under the fire
        of their own Artillery                            "      219
  21.--Mont  St. Quentin--collecting Australian
        wounded under protection of the Red Cross
        flag, September 1st, 1918                         "      240
  22.--An  Ammunition Dump--established in Warfusee
        village on August 8th, 1918, after its
        capture the same morning                          "      241
  23.--Australian  Light Horse--the 13th A.L.H.
        Regiment riding into action on August 17th, 1918  "      256
  24.--The Sniper sniped--an enemy sniper disposed
        of by an Australian Sharp-shooter,
        August 22nd, 1918                                 "      257
  25.--German  Prisoners--captured at the battle of
        Chuignes, August 23rd, 1918                       "      274
  26.--Captured  German Guns--Park of Ordnance,
        captured by the Australians during August, 1918   "      275
  27.--The  Toll of Battle--an Australian gun-team
        destroyed by an enemy shell, September 1st, 1918  "      294
  28.--Inter-Divisional  Relief--the 30th American
        and the 3rd Australian Divisions passing each
        other in the "Roo de Kanga," Péronne,
        during the "relief" after the capture of the
        Hindenburg Line, October 4th, 1918                "      295
  29.--Australian  Artillery--moving up to the front,
        through the Hindenburg wire, October 2nd, 1918    "      316
  30.--Advance during Battle--Third Division Infantry
        and Tanks advancing to the capture of Bony,
        October 1st, 1918                                 "      317

The Australian Victories in France in 1918



The renown of the Australians as individual fighters, in all theatres
of the Great War, has loomed large in the minds and imagination of the
people of the Empire.

Many stories of the work they did have been published in the daily
Press and in book form. But it is seldom that any appreciation can be
discovered of the fact that the Australians in France gradually became,
as the war progressed, moulded into a single, complete and fully
organized Army Corps.

Seldom has any stress been laid upon the fact that because it thus
became a formation fixed and stable in composition, fighting under a
single command, and provided with all accessory arms and services, the
Corps was able successfully to undertake fighting operations on the
grandest scale.

There can be little question, however, that it was this development
which constituted the paramount and precedent condition for the
brilliant successes achieved by these splendid troops during the summer
and autumn of 1918--successes which far overshadowed those of any
earlier period of the war.

For a complete understanding of all the factors which contributed
to those successes, and for an intelligent grasp of the course of
events following so dramatically upon the outbreak of the great
German offensive of March 21st of that year, I propose to trace, very
briefly, the genesis and ultimate development of the Corps, as it
became constituted when, on August 8th, it was launched upon its great
enterprise of opening, in close collaboration with the Army Corps of
its sister Dominion of Canada, that remarkable counter-offensive, which
it maintained, without pause, without check, and without reverse, for
sixty consecutive days--a period full of glorious achievement--which
contributed, as I shall show in these pages, in the most direct and
decisive manner, to the final collapse and surrender of the enemy.

In the days before the war, there was in the British Service no
recognized or authorized organization known as an Army Corps. When
the Expeditionary Force was launched into the conflict in 1914, the
Army Corps organization was hastily improvised, and consisted at first
merely of an Army Corps Staff, with a small allotment of special Corps
Troops and services, and of a fluctuating number of Divisions.

It was the _Division_[1] and not the _Corps_, which was then the
strategical unit of the Army. Even when the necessity for the formation
of Army Corps was recognized, it was still a fundamental conception
that it was the Division, and not the Army Corps, which constituted the
fighting unit.

To each Army Corps were allotted at first only two, but later as many
as four Divisions, according to the needs and circumstances of the
moment. But the component Divisions never, for long, remained the same.
The actual composition of every Army Corps was subject to constant
changes and interchanges, and it was rare for any given Division to
remain for more than a few weeks in any one Army Corps.

The disadvantages of such an arrangement are sufficiently obvious to
require no great elaboration; at the same time, it has to be recognized
that, during the first three years of the war, at any rate, the Army
was undergoing a process of rapid expansion, and that, on grounds of
expediency, it was neither possible nor desirable to adopt a policy of
a fixed and immutable composition for so large a formation as an Army

Moreover, the special conditions of trench warfare made it imperative
to create, under the respective Armies, and in the respective zones
of those Armies, a subordinate administrative and tactical authority
with a more or less fixed geographical jurisdiction. Thus, the frontage
held by each of the five British Armies became subdivided into a
series of Corps frontages, and each Corps Commander had allotted to
him a definite frontage, a definite depth and a definite area, for his
administrative and executive direction.

It was within this Corps area that he exercised entire control of all
functions of a purely local and geographical character: such as the
maintenance of all roads, railways, canals, telegraphs and telephones;
the control of all traffic; the apportionment of all billeting and
quartering facilities; the allocation and employment of all means of
transport; the collection and distribution of all supplies, comprising
food, forage, munitions and engineering materials; the conservation
and distribution of all water supply; the sanitation of the area; the
whole medical administration within, and the evacuation of sick and
wounded from the area; the establishment and working of shops of all
descriptions, both for general engineering and for Ordnance purposes;
also of laundries, bathing establishments and rest camps; the creation
of facilities for the entertainment and recreation of resting troops,
and of schools for their military training and for the education of
their leaders.

The Corps Commander was, in addition, directly responsible to the Army
Commander for the tactical defence of his whole area, for the creation
and maintenance of the entire system of field defences covering his
frontage, comprising trench systems in numerous successive zones and
field fortifications of all descriptions; for preparations for the
demolition of railways and bridges to meet the eventuality of an
enforced withdrawal; and for detailed plans for an advance into the
enemy's territory whenever the opportune moment should arrive.

The extensive responsibilities thus imposed upon the Corps Commander,
and upon the whole of his Staff, obviously demanded an intimate study
and knowledge of the whole of the Corps area, such as could be acquired
only by continuous occupation of one and the same area for a period
extending over many months. It would therefore have been in the highest
degree inconvenient to move such a complex organization as an Army
Corps Staff from one area to another at short intervals of time. On the
other hand, the several Divisions allotted to any given Corps for the
actual occupation and maintenance of the defences could not be called
upon to carry out without relief or rest, trench duty for continuous
periods longer than a few weeks at a time.

During the first three years the number of Divisions at the disposal
of the British High Command was never adequate to provide each Army
Corps in the front line with sufficient Divisions to permit of a
regular alternation out of its own resources of periods of trench duty
and periods of rest. For a Corps holding a two-Division frontage, for
example, it would have been necessary to provide a permanent strength
of at least four Divisions in order to permit of such a rotation.

The expedient generally adopted, therefore, was to withdraw altogether
from the Army Corps, each Division in turn, as it became due for a rest
behind the line or was required for duty elsewhere, and to substitute
some other available Division from G.H.Q. or Army Reserve. The broad
result was that such an deal as that of a fixed composition for an Army
Corps proved quite unattainable, and there was a constant interchange
of nearly the whole of the Divisions of the Army, who served in
succession, for short periods, in many different Corps, and under many
different Commanders.

To this general rule there was, from the outset of its formation, one
striking exception, in the case of the Canadian Army Corps, consisting
of the four Canadian Divisions, which, with rare exceptions, and these
only for short periods and for quite special purposes, invariably
fought as a complete Corps of fixed constitution.

It is impossible to overvalue the advantages which accrued to the
Canadian troops from this close and constant association of all the
four Divisions with each other, with the Corps Commander and his Staff,
and with all the accessory Corps services. It meant mutual knowledge
of each other among all Commanders, all Staffs, all arms and services,
and the mutual trust and confidence born of that knowledge. It was the
prime factor in achieving the brilliant conquest of the Vimy Ridge by
that Corps in the early spring of 1917.

The consummation, so long and so ardently hoped for, of a similar
welding together of all Australian units in the field in France into a
single Corps was not achieved in its entirety until a full year later,
and it will be interesting to trace briefly the steps by which such a
result, strongly pressed as it was by the Australian Government, was
finally brought about.

Australia put into the field and maintained until the end, altogether
five Divisions of Infantry, complete with all requisite Artillery,
Engineers, Pioneers and all Supply, Medical and Veterinary Services, in
full conformity with the Imperial War Establishments laid down for such
Divisions. But the method and time of their formation and organization,
the manner and circumstances of their war preparation, and their
employment as part of a Corps varied considerably.

The First Australian Division, together with the Fourth Infantry
Brigade, which was then under my command and subsequently became the
nucleus of the Fourth Australian Division, were raised in Australia
in 1914, immediately after the outbreak of war, were transported to
Egypt, where they underwent their war training in the winter of 1915,
and ultimately formed, with the New Zealand Contingent, the body known
as the "Anzac" Corps, which carried out, on April 25th, the memorable
landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

The Second Australian Division speedily followed, being raised in
Australia during 1915, and the greater part of this Second Contingent
joined the Anzac Corps in the later stages of the Dardanelles
Expedition. Another independent Brigade (the Eighth) was also sent to
Egypt in that year.

The raising of the Third Australian Division, early in 1916, was the
magnificent answer which Australia made when public men and the Press
declared that the Australian people would resent the Evacuation from
Gallipoli, and the seemingly fruitless sacrifices which it entailed.
This Division was shipped direct to England, and assembled on Salisbury
Plain during the summer of 1916, where I assumed the command of
it. There it underwent its war training under conditions far more
advantageous than those which confronted the First and Second Divisions
in the Egyptian desert. The Third Division entered the theatre of war
in France in November, 1916.

In the meantime, the Evacuation of the Peninsula, in December, 1915,
led to the assembly in Egypt of the First and Second Australian
Divisions, the Fourth and Eighth independent Infantry Brigades and some
thirty thousand reinforcements and convalescents.

Out of this supply of fighting material it was then decided to
constitute two additional complete Divisions, the Fourth Brigade
forming the nucleus of the Fourth Australian Division, while the 8th
Brigade formed that of the Fifth Australian Division; the remaining
Brigades and the Divisional troops were drawn from reinforcements,
stiffened by a considerable contribution of veterans taken from the
four Infantry Brigades who had carried out the landing on Gallipoli.

The Fourth and Fifth Divisions were thus formed in Egypt in February
and March, 1916, and the conditions of their war training were
even less satisfactory than those which had confronted the earlier
Divisions. The hot season speedily arrived; equipment, munitions
and animals materialized slowly; training equipment and suitable
training grounds were of the most meagre character; and upon all
these difficulties supervened the urgent obligation to undertake the
strenuous toil of organizing and executing, on the Sinai desert, the
field fortifications required for the defence of the Suez Canal zone.

The method in which the Divisions then available in Egypt were to be
grouped for the purposes of Corps Command was ripe for decision. It
was then that the determination was reached to constitute two separate
Army Corps, to be called respectively "First Anzac" and "Second Anzac."
The former embodied the First, Second and Fifth Australian Divisions,
under General Sir William Birdwood; the latter comprised the Fourth
Australian and the New Zealand Divisions under Lieut.-General Sir
Alexander Godley.

This was the organization of the Australian troops when the time
arrived, in May, 1916, for their transfer by sea from Egypt to the
scene of the titanic conflict which had been for nearly two years
raging on the soil of France and Belgium.

This grouping did not, however, persist for more than a few weeks. The
opening of the great Somme offensive in July 1916 found the First,
Second and Fourth Divisions operating under First Anzac in the valley
of the Somme, while the Fifth Australian and the New Zealand Division
constituted the Second Anzac Corps in the Armentières-Fleurbaix sector.
There followed other interchanges as the campaign developed, and by
November of 1916, the grouping stood with First Anzac employing the
First, Second, Fourth and Fifth Divisions, while Second Anzac comprised
the Third Australian, the New Zealand and the Thirty-Fourth British

The series of offensive operations opening with the great and
successful battle of Messines on June 7th, 1917, found the Fourth
Australian Division once again under the command of General Godley,
only to be again withdrawn before the concluding phases of the
Third Battle of Ypres, in September and October, 1917. The autumn
offensive of 1917, aiming at the capture of the Passchendaele ridge,
was the first occasion on which the whole of the five Divisions were
simultaneously engaged in the same locality in a common enterprise;
but even on that occasion they still remained distributed under two
different Corps Commands, and had not yet achieved the long-desired
unity of command and of policy.

This constant interchange of these Divisions, unavoidable as it
probably was, undoubtedly militated against the attainment of the
highest standard of efficiency. Uniform in scope and purpose as
military administration and tactical policy aims to be when considered
on broad lines, yet in a thousand and one matters of detail, many of
them of dominating importance, the personality and the individual
idiosyncrasies of the Corps Commander and of his principal executive
Staff Officers, are calculated to exercise a powerful influence upon
the functioning of the whole Corps.

Under each Corps Commander there grew up in course of time a particular
code of rules, and policies, of technical methods and even of technical
jargon--most of it in an unwritten form. This nevertheless tended
towards efficiency so long as the whole of the component personnel of
the Corps remained stable, but imposed many difficulties upon Divisions
and other units which joined and remained under the Corps for a short
period only.

The result was that a Divisional Commander and his Staff, accustomed
to work in one environment, often found great difficulty, and occupied
some appreciable period of time, in accommodating themselves to a new
environment, in which doctrines of attack or defence, counter-attack or
trench routine, supply or maintenance were, some or all of them, widely
different from those to which they had formerly become accustomed.

But, in the case of Dominion troops, there was a motive far
overshadowing the desire for a removal of difficulties of merely a
technical nature. It was one founded upon a sense of Nationhood, which
prompted the wish, vaguely formed early in the war, and steadily
crystallizing in the minds both of the Australian people and of the
troops themselves, that all the Australian Divisions should be brought
together under a single leadership.

This ideal was associated with the hope that the Commanders and Staffs
should to as large an extent as possible, consist solely of Australian
Officers, as soon as ever men sufficiently qualified became available.
It is difficult to emphasize such a desire without appearing to display
ingratitude to a number of brilliant General and other officers of
the Imperial Regular Service. These men, at a time when Australia was
still able to produce only few officers with the necessary training and
experience to justify their appointment to the command of Divisions
and Brigades, or to the senior Administrative and General Staffs,
bore these burdens in a manner which reflected upon them the greatest
credit, and earned for them the gratitude of the Australian people.

I refer, among many others, particularly to General Sir W. Birdwood,
Major-Generals Sir H. B. Walker, Sir N. M. Smyth, V.C. and Sir H. V.
Cox and Brigadier-Generals W. B. Lesslie and P. G. M. Skene. But as the
war went on, this aspect of the national aspiration became steadily
realized; one by one, the senior commands and staff appointments were
taken over by Australian Officers who had proved their aptitude and
suitability for such responsibilities.

The other ideal of unity of command and close association with each
other of all Australian units, proved slower of realization. All
concerned thought and hoped that it had been, at last, achieved in
December, 1917, when it was decided to abolish the two "Anzac" Corps,
and to constitute a single Australian Army Corps. This was effected
by the transfer of the Third Australian Division from Second to First
Anzac Corps, by altering the title of "Second Anzac" to "XXII. Corps,"
and by substituting for the name "First Anzac" the name "Australian
Army Corps," which name it bore until the termination of the war.

The only regrettable feature of this development was the dissolution
of the close comradeship which had existed between the troops from the
sister Dominions of Australia and New Zealand.

Even then all hopes were doomed to disappointment. For the next four
months the Corps contained five Divisions in name only. Almost at once,
the Fourth Australian Division was withdrawn to serve under the VII.
Corps in connection with the operations before Cambrai. Not many weeks
later, when the German avalanche was loosed, the whole five Divisions
became widely scattered, and, for a time, the Third and Fourth
Divisions served under the VII. British Corps, the Fifth Division under
the III. Corps, and the First Division under the XV. Corps. It was not
until April, 1918, that four out of the five Divisions again came
together under the control of the Australian Corps Commander, at that
time General Sir William Birdwood.

About the middle of May, 1918, this popular Commander was appointed
to the leadership of the Fifth British Army. In deference to his long
association with the Australian Imperial Force, he was asked to retain
his status as G.O.C., A.I.F. His responsibilities as the Commander of
an Army, and its removal to quite a different area in the theatre of
war, made it, however, impossible for him to take any active part in
the direction of the further operations of the Australian Corps.

Owing to the vacancy thus created, the Commander-in-Chief, with the
concurrence of the Commonwealth Government, did me the great honour to
appoint me to the command of the Australian Army Corps, a command which
I took over during the closing days of May and retained until after the

At that juncture the First Australian Division was still involved in
heavy fighting, under the XV. Corps, in the Hazebrouck sector, and no
amount of pressure which I could bring to bear succeeded in prevailing
upon G.H.Q. to release this Division. It was not until early in August,
1918, on the very eve of the opening of the great offensive, that, at
long last, all the five Australian Divisions became united into one
Corps, never to be again separated. From that date onwards all five
Divisions embarked (for the first time in their history) upon a series
of combined offensive operations, the story of which I have set myself
the task of unfolding in these pages.

The Australian Army Corps had by that time evolved from a mere
geographical organization into one which, over and above its component
Infantry Divisions, had acquired a large number of accessory arms and
services, called Corps Troops, which formed no part of a Division. It
is desirable for the complete understanding of the battle plans of the
offensive period, to consider the extent and nature of the whole of the
fighting and maintenance resources of the Corps.

These fell theoretically into two categories, comprising on the one
hand those units properly designated as "Corps Troops," which possessed
a fixed and unalterable constitution, and, on the other hand, those
additional units, known as "Army Troops," whose number and character
fluctuated in accordance with the varying needs of the situation, and
with the requirements of the various operations.

These Army Troops, whenever detailed to act under the orders of the
Corps Commander, became an integral part of the Corps, and were
to all intents and purposes Corps Troops, until such time as they
had completed the tasks allotted to them. The Corps Troops were
multifarious in character, and amounted in the aggregate to large
numbers, occasionally exceeding 50,000, a number as great as that of
three additional Divisions, whose normal strength in the closing phases
of the war never exceeded 17,000.

The Headquarters of the Army Corps comprised upwards of 300 Staff
and assistant Staff Officers, clerks, orderlies, draughtsmen, motor
drivers, grooms, batmen, cooks and general helpers. The Corps Cavalry
consisted, in the case of the Australian Army Corps, of the 13th
Regiment of Australian Light Horse, and was employed, in conjunction
with the Australian Cyclist Battalion, for reconnaissance, escort and
dispatch rider duty.

The Corps Signal Troops were an extensive organization, and controlled
the whole of the Signal communications throughout the Corps area
(except within the Divisions themselves), being responsible for the
establishment, upkeep and working of every method of communication,
whether by telegraph, telephone, wireless, pigeons, messenger dogs,
aeroplane, or dispatch rider. Apart from telegraphists, mechanics and
electrical experts in considerable numbers, adequate for the very heavy
signal traffic during battle, and even during periods of comparative
quiet, Corps Signals also operated two Motor Air Line and two Cable
Sections, for the laying out and maintenance of wires. Those within the
Corps Area, at any one place and time, amounted to several hundreds of

The whole of the Mechanical Transport, consisting of hundreds of motor
lorries, for the collection and distribution of ammunition, food,
forage and ordnance stores of all descriptions, was also under the
direct control of Corps Headquarters. So also were some half-dozen
mobile Ordnance Workshops, for the repair of weapons and vehicles of
all kinds. All these were permanent Corps Troops, but represented only
a fraction of those serving under the orders of the Corps Commander.

Among the Administrative Services there was a large contingent of the
Labour Corps comprising some 20 Companies, for the construction and
maintenance of all roads, and water supply installations, and for
the handling, daily, of a formidable bulk and weight of Artillery
ammunition; also two or more Motor Ambulance Convoys, for the
evacuation of the sick and wounded out of the Corps area, and a number
of Army Troops Companies of Engineers, as well as two Companies of
Australian Tunnellers, who were usually employed upon the construction
and maintenance of bridges, locks, water transport mechanism, deep
dug-outs and battle stations.

But the fighting units of the Corps Troops formed by far the
largest proportion, and comprised Artillery, Heavy Trench Mortars,
Air Squadrons and Tanks. The Artillery alone merits more detailed
consideration. It comprised a vast array of many different classes
of guns for many different purposes, and classified into various
categories by reference either to their calibres, their mobility or
their tactical purposes.

Grouped according to calibre, all guns and howitzers of 4½-inch bore
or less were strictly considered as Field Artillery which, although
administered by the Divisions, was almost invariably fought under the
direct orders of the Corps Commander. All guns and howitzers of greater
bore, up to the giant 15-inch, were known as Heavy and Siege Artillery.

Regarded from the point of view of mobility, all field guns and that
wonderfully useful weapon, the 60-pounder, were horse-drawn, the larger
ordnance were tractor-drawn, and the very largest were mounted on
railway trains and hauled by steam locomotive.

Finally, as regards tactical utilization, some natures of ordnance
were invariably employed for barrage or harassing fire, others for
bombardment, others for counter-battery fighting, and yet others for
anti-aircraft purposes.

The total ordnance under the orders of the Australian Army Corps
naturally fluctuated according to the daily battle requirements, but
amounted at times, during the period of the war under consideration, to
as many as 1,200 guns of all natures and calibres, grouped in Brigades
each of four to six Batteries, each of four to six guns.

This very formidable Artillery equipment far transcended in quantity
and dynamic power anything that had been envisaged in the previous
years of the war, or in any previous war, as possible of administrative
or tactical control under a single Commander. It undoubtedly became
a paramount factor in the victories which the Corps achieved. The
Artillery of the Corps is entitled to the proud boast that it earned
the confidence and gratitude of the Infantry.

It must be left to the imagination to conceive the complexity of the
task of keeping this enormous mass of Artillery regularly supplied
with its ammunition, of multifarious types and in adequate quantities
of each, of allocating to each Brigade and even to each Battery its
appropriate task in the general plan, and of advancing the whole
organization over half-ruined roads and broken bridges, in order to
keep up with the Infantry as the battle moved forward from day to day.
It would defy a detailed description intelligible to any but gunnery

The Air Force had, by the summer of 1918, also achieved a great
development. The numerous Air Squadrons had embarked upon a policy of
specialization in tactical employment, in accordance with the build
and capacities of the aeroplanes with which they were equipped. Thus
gradually the whole range of utilization became covered, from the
small fast single-seater fighting scout, intended to engage and drive
off enemy 'planes, to the slower two-seater reconnaissance machines,
employed chiefly for photography and for the direction of Artillery
fire, and the giant long-distance bombing machines.

The Australian Corps had at its exclusive disposal at all times the
No. 3 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps, and employed the
machines for reconnaissance prior to and after battle, and for contact
and counter-attack work and Artillery observation during battle.
But, whenever the scope of the operations rendered it necessary, the
resources of the Corps in aircraft were enormously increased, and as
many as a dozen squadrons were on occasions employed, during battle,
in low flying pursuit of enemy infantry and transport, in production
of smoke screens, in bombing, in ammunition carrying, and in dispatch
bearing--over and above usual reconnaissance work designed to keep
Corps and Divisional Headquarters rapidly and minutely informed, from
moment to moment, of the situation of the Infantry in actual contact
with the enemy.

Another branch of the Air Force activities under the direct control
of the Corps was the Captive Balloon Service. Some five large captive
or kite balloons, carrying trained Artillery Observers, regularly
ascended along the Corps front whenever the weather and the conditions
of visibility permitted, to a height of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet, and
with the aid of powerful telescopes and of telephone wires woven into
the anchoring cables, kept the Artillery regularly notified of all
visible enemy movement, and of the occurrence of all suitable targets
of opportunity, such as the flashes from enemy guns in action.

During battle one such balloon was invariably sent up well forward
to observe as closely as possible the progress of the fighting, but
the results were almost uniformly disappointing, because the smoke
and dust of the barrage and the general murk of battle usually proved
impenetrable to the air observer, tied as he was to a fixed position.
The reports of these observers were usually confined to the laconic
observation: "Can't see much, but all apparently going well."

The last of the major fighting units of Corps Troops remaining to
be mentioned are the Tanks. These extraordinary products of the war
underwent a remarkable evolution during the two years which followed
their first introduction on the battlefield in the Somme campaign of
1916. The standard of efficiency which had been reached by the early
summer of 1918, in the most developed types of these curious monsters,
as far outclassed that of the earlier types in both mechanical and
fighting properties as the modern service rifle compared with the old
Brown Bess of the Peninsular War. The Tank crews had improved in like
proportion, both in skill, enterprise and adaptability.

[Illustration: The Australian Corps Commander--with the Generals of his

[Illustration: The Valley of the Somme--looking East towards Bray,
which was then still in enemy hands.]

Nothing can be more unstinted than the acknowledgment which the
Australian Corps makes of its obligation to the Tank Corps for its
powerful assistance throughout the whole of the great offensive.
Commencing with the battle of Hamel, a large contingent of Tanks
participated in every important "set-piece" engagement which the Corps
undertook. The Tanks were organized into Brigades, each of three
Battalions, each of three Companies, each of twelve Tanks. During the
opening phases, early in August, the Tank contingent comprised a whole
Brigade of Mark V. Tanks, a Battalion of Mark V. (Star) Tanks, and
a Battalion of fast Armoured Cars; in the later phases, during the
assault on the Hindenburg Line, a second Brigade of Mark V. Tanks and
a Battalion of Whippets also co-operated.

Such was the formidable array of fighting resources under the direct
orders of the Australian Corps Commander, and, together with the five
Australian Divisions, formed a fighting organization of great strength
and solidarity. It became an instrument for offensive warfare, as has
been said by a high authority, which for size and power excelled all
Corps organizations which either this or any previous war had produced.
It was an instrument which it was a great responsibility, as also a
great honour, to wield in the task of shattering the still formidable
military power of the enemy. For in the early summer of 1918, that
power appeared to be still unimpaired, and still capable of inflicting
serious reverses upon the Allied cause.

Early in 1918, owing to the depletion of human material, the Imperial
Divisions were reconstituted by a reduction of their Infantry Brigades
from a four-battalion to a three-battalion basis, thus reducing the
available infantry by twenty-five per cent. But in this reduction, the
Australian Divisions during the fighting period shared only to a very
small extent. In March the strength of the 15 Brigades of Australian
Infantry in the field was still 60 Battalions. The heavy fighting of
March and April compelled the extinction of 3 Battalions, one each
respectively in the 9th, 12th and 13th Infantry Brigades; but the
remaining 57 Battalions of Infantry remained intact until after the
close of the actual fighting operations early in October. The Corps was
therefore enabled to maintain an additional twelve battalions over and
above the then prevailing corresponding Imperial organization.

It was thus the largest of all Army Corps ever organized, in this or
any other war, by any of the combatants--the largest both in point of
numbers and of military resources of all descriptions, approaching, and
in one case exceeding, a full Army command.

But even these great resources and responsibilities were added to,
during the course of the operations, by the allocation, at successive
times, to the Australian Corps of the 17th Imperial Division, the 32nd
Imperial Division and the 27th and 30th American Divisions. Thus,
during the closing days of September, 1918, the Corps numbered a total
of nearly 200,000 men, exceeding more than fourfold the whole of the
British troops under the command of the Duke of Wellington at the
Battle of Waterloo.

Of this total about one-half comprised Australian troops, the Heavy
Artillery and other Army units attached to the Corps consisting of
Imperial troops. The Commanders and Staffs from June, 1918, until the
end consisted almost entirely of Australian officers, among whom the
following were the senior:

  Corps Commander              Lieut.-General Sir J. Monash,
                                 G.C.M.G., K.C.B., V.D.
    Corps Chief-of-Staff       Brigadier-General T. A. Blamey,
                                 C.M.G., D.S.O.
    Corps Artillery Commander  Brigadier-General W. A. Coxen,
                                 C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.
    Chief Engineer             Brigadier-General C. H. Foott,
                                 C.B., C.M.G.

  1st Div. Commander           Major-General Sir T. W. Glasgow,
                                 K.C.B., D.S.O.
    General Staff Officer      Lieut.-Colonel A. M. Ross, C.M.G.,
    Chief Admin. Officer       Lieut.-Colonel H. G. Viney,
                                 C.M.G., D.S.O.

  2nd Div. Commander           Major-General Sir C. Rosenthal,
                                 K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O.
    General Staff Officer      Lieut.-Colonel C. G. N. Miles,
                                 C.M.G., D.S.O.
    Chief Admin. Officer       Lieut.-Colonel J. M. A. Durrant,
                                 C.M.G., D.S.O.

  3rd Div. Commander           Major-General Sir J. Gellibrand,
                                 K.C.B., D.S.O.
    General Staff Officer      Lieut.-Colonel C. H. Jess, C.M.G.,
    Chief Admin. Officer       Lieut.-Colonel R. E. Jackson,

  4th Div. Commander           Major-General E. G. Sinclair-Maclagan,
                                 C.B., D.S.O.
    General Staff Officer      Lieut.-Colonel J. D. Lavarack,
                                 C.M.G., D.S.O.
    Chief Admin. Officer       Lieutenant-Colonel R. Dowse,

  5th Div. Commander           Major-General Sir J. J. T. Hobbs,
                                 K.C.B., K.C.M.G., V.D.
    General Staff Officer      Lieut.-Colonel J. H. Peck, C.M.G.,
      and later                Lieut.-Colonel J. T. McColl,
                                 O.B.E., M.C.
    Chief Admin. Officer       Colonel J. H. Bruche, C.B., C.M.G.

All the above were Australian Officers, and most of them were of
Australian birth. There were also two senior staff officers of the
Regular Army, Brigadier-General R. A. Carruthers, C.B., C.M.G., who
was Chief of the Administrative Services, and Brigadier-General L.
D. Fraser, C.B., C.M.G., who was in immediate command of the Heavy
Artillery of the Corps.[2]


[1] A _Division_ consists of three Infantry Brigades, Divisional
Artillery, three Field Companies of Engineers, three Field Ambulances,
a Pioneer Battalion, a Machine Gun Battalion, together with Supply,
Sanitary and Veterinary Services. Its nominal strength is 20,000.

An _Infantry Brigade_ consists of four Infantry Battalions, each of
1,000 men, and a Light Trench Mortar Battery.

Divisional Artillery comprises two Brigades each of four batteries,
each of six guns or howitzers, also one Heavy and three medium Trench
Mortar Batteries, and the Divisional Ammunition Column.

This composition of a Division was modified in detail during the course
of the war.

[2] For grouping of Australian Brigades into Divisions, see Appendix



The early days of the year 1918 found the Australian Corps consisting
of the First, Second, Third and Fifth Australian Divisions, while
the Fourth had been transferred far south to co-operate in the later
developments of the Cambrai fighting. The Corps was then holding,
defensively, a sector of the line in Flanders, which had in the
previous years of the war become, at various times, familiar to all
our Divisions, and which extended from the river Lys at Armentières,
northwards, as far as to include the southern half of the Messines

It was, indeed, that very stretch of country, which in June, 1917,
had been captured by our Third Division, in co-operation with the New
Zealanders. Opposite its centre lay the town of Warneton, still in the
hands of the enemy. Excepting for a small area of undulating ground in
the extreme north of the Corps sector, the country was a forbidding
expanse of devastation, flat and woebegone, with long stretches of
the front line submerged waist deep after every freshet in the river
Lys, and with the greater part of our trench system like nothing but a
series of canals of liquid mud.

This unsavoury region formed, however, the most obvious line of
approach for an enemy who, debouching from the direction of Warneton,
aimed at the high land between us and the Channel Ports; so that,
tactically useless as were these mud flats, it was imperative that
they should be strongly defended, in order to protect from capture
the important heights of Messines, Kemmel, Hill 63, Mont des Cats and

During the fighting of the preceding summer and early autumn, which
gave the Australian troops possession of this territory, the locality
was dry, practicable for movement, and reasonably comfortable for the
front line troops. Now it was water-logged, often ice-bound, bleak
and inhospitable. The precious months of dry weather, between August
and October, 1917, had been allowed to pass without any comprehensive
attempt on the part of those Divisions which had relieved the Second
Anzac Corps after its capture of this ground to perfect the defences of
the newly-conquered territory. At any rate, there was little to show
for any work that may have been attempted.

Now, in the very depth of the worst season of the year, the demand
came to prepare the region for defence and resistance to the last;
for the threat of a great German offensive in the opening of the
1918 campaigning season was already beginning to take shape. It was
the Australian Corps which was called upon to answer that demand.
There followed week after week of heart-breaking labour, much of it
necessarily by night, in draining the flat land, in erecting acre upon
acre of wire entanglements, in constructing hundreds of strong points,
and concrete machine gun emplacements. Trenches had to be dug, although
the sides collapsed unless immediately revetted with fascines or sheet
iron; roads had to be repaired, and vain attempts were made to provide
the trench garrisons with dry and bearable underground living quarters.

The monotony of all this labour, which long after--when the Australians
had disappeared from the scene and were again fighting on the
Somme--proved to have been undertaken all in vain, was relieved only
by an occasional raid, undertaken by one or other of our front line
Divisions, for the purpose of molesting the enemy and gathering
information. The Corps front was held by two Divisions in line, one in
support, and one resting in a back area; the rotation of trench duty
gave each Division about six weeks in the line.

My own command at that juncture still comprised the Third Australian
Division, which I had organized and trained in England, eighteen
months before. Although this Division had never been on the Somme,
it had seen a great deal of fighting in Flanders during 1917. During
this period, therefore, and until the outbreak of the storm in the
last days of March, 1918, my interest centred chiefly in the doings of
the Third Division, although for a very short period I had the honour
of commanding the Corps during the temporary absence of Sir William

The information at our disposal led to the inevitable conclusion that,
during January and February, the enemy was busy in transferring a great
mass of military resources from the Russian to the Western Front. No
one capable of reading the signs entertained the smallest doubt that he
contemplated taking the offensive, in the spring, on a large scale. The
only questions were, at what point would he strike? and what tactics
would he employ?

Every responsible Australian Commander, accordingly, during those
months, applied himself diligently to these problems, formulated his
doctrines of obstinate defence, and of the defensive offensive; and saw
to it that his troops received such precognition in these matters as
was possible at such a time and in such an environment. The principles
of defence in successive zones, of the rapid development of Infantry
and Artillery fire power, of the correct distribution of machine guns,
of rearguard tactics, and questions of the best equipment for long
marches and rapid movement were debated and resolved upon, in both
official and unofficial conferences of officers.

All this discussion bore good fruit. Among the possible rôles which
the Australian Divisions might be called upon to fill, when the great
issue was joined, were those which involved these very matters. And so
the event proved; and the Australians then approached their new and
unfamiliar tasks, not wholly unprepared by training and study for the
difficulties involved.

It was on March 8th that the Third Division bade a last but by no
means a regretful farewell to the mud of Flanders and Belgium--regions
which it had inhabited almost continuously for the preceding sixteen
months. The Division moved back for a well-earned rest, to a pleasant
countryside at Nielles-lez-Blequin, not far from Boulogne. It was lying
there, enjoying the first signs of dawning spring when, on March 21st,
the curtain was rung up for a great drama, in which the Australian
troops were destined to play no subordinate part.

There followed many weeks of crowded and strenuous days, and the
story of this time must, of necessity, assume the form of a personal
narrative. Events followed one upon the other so rapidly, and the
centre of interest changed so quickly from place to place and from hour
to hour, that no recital except that of the future historian writing
with a wealth of collected material at his disposal, could take upon
itself any other guise than that of a record of individual experience.

The Germans attacked the front of the Fifth British Army on March
21st. The information which was at the disposal of our High Command
was not of such a nature that the promulgation of it would have been
calculated to elevate the spirits of the Army; consequently Divisions
situated as we were, in Reserve, and, for the time being, entirely out
of the picture, had to depend for our news partly upon rumour, which
was always unreliable, and partly upon severely censored communiqués,
framed so as to allay public anxiety. Nothing definite emerged from
such sources, except that things were going ill and that fighting was
taking place on ground far behind what had been our front line near
St. Quentin. This hint was enough to justify the expectation that my
Division would not be left for long unemployed; and on the same day,
March 21st, instructions were issued for all units to prepare for a
move, to dump unessential baggage, to fill up all mobile supplies, and
to stand by in readiness to march at a few hours' notice.

Orders came to move on March 22nd. The Division was to move _east_,
that is, back into Flanders, and not south to the Somme Valley, as all
had hoped. The prescribed move duly started, but by March 24th had
been arrested, for orders had come to cancel the move and await fresh
orders. Advanced parties, for billeting duty, were to proceed next
morning by motor lorry to Doullens, and there await orders. Later came
detailed instructions that the Division was to be transferred from the
Australian Corps to the Tenth Corps, which latter was to be G.H.Q.
Reserve, and that the whole Division was to be moved the next night to
the Doullens[3] area, the dismounted troops by rail, and the Artillery
and other mounted units by route-march.

It was evident that the plans of the High Command were the subject
of rapid changes, in sympathy, probably, with fluctuations in the
situation, which were not ascertainable by me. There followed a night
and day of strenuous activity, during which arrangements were completed
to entrain the three Infantry Brigades and the Pioneers at three
different railway stations, to start off the whole of the mounted units
on their long march by road, and to ensure that all fighting troops
were properly equipped with munitions, food and water, all ready for
immediate employment. It was well that my Staff responded capably to
the heavy demands made upon them, and that all this preparatory work
was efficiently done.

The entrainments commenced at midnight on the 25th and continued all
night. At break of day on the 26th, after assuring myself that everyone
was correctly on the move, I proceeded south by motor-car, in the
endeavour to find the Tenth Corps Headquarters, and to report to them
for orders. My fruitless search of that forenoon revealed to me the
first glimpse of the true reason for that far-reaching disorganization
and confusion which confronted me during the next twenty-four hours.

Over three years of trench warfare had accustomed the whole Army to
fixed locations for all Headquarters, and to settled routes and lines
of inter-communication. The powerful German onslaught and the recoil of
a broad section of our fighting front had suddenly disturbed the whole
of this complex organization. The Headquarters of Brigades, Divisions,
and even Corps, ceased to have fixed locations where they could be
found, or assured lines of telegraph or telephone communications, by
which they could be reached. Everything was in a state of flux, and the
process of getting into personal contact with each other suddenly took
responsible leaders hours where it had previously taken minutes.

In its broad result, this disorganization affected most seriously
the retiring troops, by depriving them of the advantages of rapidly
disseminated orders for properly co-ordinated action by a large number
of Corps and Divisions withdrawing side by side. The consequence
was, I am convinced, that the recoil--which may have been inevitable
at first by reason of the intensity of the German attack, and
because the defensive organization of the Fifth Army had been unduly
attenuated--was allowed to extend over a much greater distance, and to
continue for longer, in point of time, than ought to have been the case.

Between Albert and St. Quentin there were in existence several lines
of defence, which by reason of their topographical features, or the
existence of trenches and entanglements, were eminently suitable for
making a stand. Yet no stand was made, at any rate on a broad front,
because there was no co-ordination in the spasmodic attempts to do so.
I subsequently learned of more than one instance where Brigades of
Infantry or of Artillery found themselves perfectly well able to hold
on, but were compelled to a continued retirement by the melting away of
the units on their flanks.

I sought the Tenth Corps at Hautcloque, where they were to be. They
were not there. I proceeded to Frevent, where they were said to have
been the night before. They had already left. In despair, I proceeded
to Doullens, resolved at least to ensure the orderly detrainment of my
Division and their quartering for the following night, and there to
await further orders. A despatch rider was sent off to G.H.Q. to report
my whereabouts, and the fact that I was without orders.

Arriving at Doullens, I tumbled into a scene of indescribable
confusion. The population were preparing to evacuate the town _en
masse_, and an exhausted and hungry soldiery was pouring into the
town from the east and south-east, with excited tales that the German
cavalry was on their heels. Influenced by the persistency of these
reports, I determined to make, immediately, dispositions to cover the
detrainment of my troops, so that some show of resistance could be made.

In the midst of all this stress and anxiety, I was favoured by a run
of good luck. Within half an hour of my reaching Doullens, the first
of my railway trains arrived, bringing Brigadier-General Rosenthal
and a battalion of the 9th Brigade, sufficient troops, at any rate,
to furnish a strong outpost line for covering the eastern approaches
of Doullens, while the remainder of the Brigade should arrive. These
arrangements made, I motored to Mondicourt, where almost immediately
afterwards a train arrived, bringing Brigadier-General McNicoll and the
first battalion of the 10th Brigade.

There also arrived, almost simultaneously, that rumour with the
ridiculous _dénouement_, that German armoured motor-cars were
approaching along the road from Albert and were within three miles of
that point. Those Armoured Cars proved ultimately to be a train of
French agricultural implements which a wheezy and rumbling traction
engine was doing its best to salve. McNicoll likewise received orders
to put out a line of outposts to cover Mondicourt railway station.

At this point, too, endless streams of dust-begrimed soldiers were
straggling westwards. McNicoll collected many hundreds of them, and did
not omit, by very direct methods, to prevail upon all of them who had
not yet lost their rifles and essential equipment, to call a halt and
join his own troops in the defensive dispositions which he was making.

My next business was to select a suitable central point at which to
establish my Headquarters, preferably where I could find a still intact
telephone service. Again by good luck I found a most suitable location
in a small château at Couturelle, whose owner hospitably provided a
much needed meal.

It was there, soon after my arrival, that I learned of the presence
in the neighbourhood of Major-General Maclagan; this news, implying
as it did the presence also of some at least of the Fourth Australian
Division, was a gleam of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy prospect.
Report said that he was at Basseux, and thither I proceeded, in order
to arrange, by personal conference with him, some plan for co-ordinated

Basseux rests on the main road from Doullens to Arras, which lies
roughly parallel to the line along which, as subsequently transpired,
the vanguard of the enemy was endeavouring to advance at that part of
the front. That main road I found packed, for the whole of the length
which I had to traverse, with a steadily retreating collection of
heterogeneous units, service vehicles and guns of all imaginable types
and sizes, intermingled with hundreds of civilian refugees, and farm
waggons, carts, trollies and barrows packed high with pathetic loads of
household effects. The retrograde movement was orderly and methodical
enough, and there was nothing in the nature of a rout, but it was
nevertheless a determined movement to the rear which evidenced nothing
but a desire to keep moving.

I found Maclagan at about four o'clock. His Division had already been
on the move, by bus and route march, for three days without rest. The
position to the east and south-east of him was obscure, and he also had
posted a line of outposts in the supposed direction of the enemy, and
was arranging to despatch his 4th Brigade to Hebuterne (which the enemy
was reported to have entered), with orders to recapture that town. That
the enemy was not very far away became evident from the fact that the
vicinity of the hut in which we were conferring presently came under
desultory long-range shell-fire.

There was nothing to be done except to arrange jointly to keep up
an effective and as far as possible continuous line of outposts
towards the south-east, and to await developments. Having made these
arrangements I returned along the same crowded road, which was now also
being leisurely shelled by the enemy, to Couturelle. There I found that
the principal officers of my Staff had arrived.

Thereupon orders were issued for the concentration, after detrainment,
of my three Brigades in the following areas, each with due outpost
precautions, viz.: 9th Brigade at Pas, 10th Brigade at Authie, and 11th
Brigade at Couin. My Artillery was still distant a full day's march by

About nine o'clock that evening I received, by telephone, my first
order from the Tenth Corps. It ran as follows: "A Staff Officer has
left some time ago on his way to you, carrying instructions for you to
report personally at once to Corbie for orders. We have since heard
that you are to go to Montigny instead."

It was nearly an hour before the Staff Officer arrived, having been
delayed on the road by congestion of traffic. The instructions he
carried transferred my Division from the Tenth to the Seventh Corps,
to whom I was to report personally, without delay, at Corbie. It was
evident from the later telephone message that the Seventh Corps had
been compelled to withdraw from Corbie, and was proceeding to Montigny.

This was the second stroke of good luck that day; for if the telephone
message above recited had not overtaken the Staff Officer, it is quite
probable that I should have already started for a wrong destination,
and have had to waste valuable time at a most critical juncture. Had
I failed to find General Congreve, the Seventh Corps Commander, _that
same night_, it is almost certain that my Division would have arrived
on the Somme too late to prevent the capture of Amiens.

Setting out from Couturelle shortly after ten o'clock that night,
accompanied by four of my Staff and two despatch-riders, with two
motor-cars and two motor cycles, in black darkness, on unfamiliar roads
congested with refugee traffic, I did not reach Montigny until after
midnight. I found General Congreve in the corner of a bare salon of
stately proportions, in a deserted château by the roadside, seated
with his Chief of Staff at a small table, and examining a map by the
flickering light of a candle. The rest of the château was in darkness,
but heaps of hastily dumped Staff baggage impeded all the corridors.

General Congreve was brief and to the point. What he said amounted to
this: "At four o'clock to-day my Corps was holding a line from Albert
to Bray, when the line gave way. The enemy is now pushing westwards
and if not stopped to-morrow will certainly secure all the heights
overlooking Amiens. What you must try and do is to get your Division
deployed across his path. The valleys of the Ancre and the Somme offer
good points for your flanks to rest upon. You must, of course, get as
far east as you can, but I know of a good line of old trenches, which
I believe are still in good condition, running from Méricourt-l'Abbé
towards Sailly-le-Sec. Occupy them, if you can't get further east."

At that juncture General Maclagan arrived and received similar crisp
orders to bring his Division into a position of support on the high
land in the bend of the Ancre to the west of Albert. I gleaned further
that the Seventh Corps was now the south flank Corps of the Third Army,
and that as the Fifth Army, south of the Somme, had practically melted
away, while the French were retiring south-westerly and leaving an
hourly increasing gap between their north flank and the Somme, General
Byng had resolved to make every effort not only to maintain the flank
of his Third Army on the Somme, but also to prevent it being turned
from the south, while the Commander-in-Chief was taking other measures
to attempt next day to fill the gap above alluded to.

It was already 1 a.m. of March 27th, and I had left my Division twenty
miles away. Everything depended now on quick decision and faultless
executive action. It was fortunate that a telephone line to G.H.Q.
had been found in good working order, and that the services of three
large motor bus convoys could be arranged for to proceed at once to
the Doullens area, in order to transport my Infantry during the night
to the place appointed. I worked with my Staff till nearly break of
day, considering and settling all detailed arrangements, and we then
separated in various directions to our appointed tasks.

I proceeded myself a little after dawn, with one Staff Officer, to
Franvillers, which had been decided upon as the point for leaving the
buses. There was yet no sign of any Australian troops, and the village
was being hastily evacuated by the terror-stricken inhabitants. But
there were ample and visible signs, far away on the high plateau beyond
the Ancre Valley, that the German line of skirmishers was already on
the move, slowly driving back the few troops of British Cavalry who
were, most valiantly, trying to delay their advance.

The next hour was one of intense suspense and expectancy; but my
anxiety was relieved when there rolled into the village from the
north, a motor bus convoy of thirty vehicles, crowded with good
staunch Australian Infantry of the 11th Brigade, and bringing also
Brigadier-General Cannan and some of his Brigade Staff. It was not the
first time in the war that the London motor-bus--after abandoning the
population of the great metropolis to enforced pedestrianism--had
helped to save a most critical situation.

Almost immediately after, there arrived McNicoll, with a battalion of
his 10th Brigade. Hour after hour a steady stream of omnibus convoys
came in. No time was lost in assembling the troops, and in directing
the Infantry--company after company--down the steep, winding road to
the little village of Heilly, and thence across the Ancre, to deploy on
the selected line of defence indicated in the orders above recited.

The spectacle of that Infantry will be ever memorable to me, as one
of the most inspiring sights of the whole war. Here was the Third
Division--the "new chum" Division, which, in spite of its great
successes in Belgium and Flanders, had never been able to boast, like
its sister Divisions, that it had been "down on the Somme"--come into
its own at last, and called upon to prove its mettle. And then there
was the thought that they were going to measure themselves, man to man,
against an enemy who, skulking behind his field works, had for so long
pounded them to pieces in their trenches, poisoned them with gas, and
bombed them as they slept in their billets.

That, at any rate, was the point of view of the private soldier, and no
one who saw those battalions, in spite of the fatigue of two sleepless
nights, marching on that crisp, clear spring morning, with head erect
and the swing and precision of a Royal review parade, could doubt
that not a man of them would flinch from any assault that was likely
to fall upon them. Nor was there a man who did not fully grasp that
upon him and his comrades was about to fall the whole responsibility
of frustrating the German attempt to capture Amiens and separate the
Allied Armies.

By midday, the situation was already well in hand, and by four o'clock
I was able to report to the Seventh Corps that no less than six
Battalions were already deployed, astride of the triangle formed by the
Ancre and the Somme, on the line Méricourt--Sailly-le-Sec, distributed
in a series of "localities" defended by rifles and Lewis guns. As yet
no Artillery was available.

The 11th Brigade occupied this line to the south of the main road from
Corbie to Bray, the 10th Brigade continued it to the north of the road,
while the 9th Brigade was leaving the buses and assembling in the
neighbourhood of Heilly.

So far, the pressure of the enemy upon my front had not been serious.
It was obvious that he had, as yet, very little Artillery at his
disposal. We had not, however, found our front totally devoid of
defenders. During the forenoon, a few troops of our cavalry, and a
force under Brigadier-General Cummings, comprising about 1,500 mixed
infantry, the remnants of a large number of different units of the
Third Army, were slowly withdrawing under pressure from the advancing
German patrols. These valiant "die-hards," deserving of the greatest
praise in comparison with the many thousands of their comrades who had
withdrawn from any further attempt to stem the onflowing tide, were now
ordered to retire through my outpost line, thus leaving the Australian
Infantry at last face to face with the enemy.

These dispositions were completed only in the nick of time. All that
afternoon the enemy appeared over the sky-line in front of us, both in
lines of skirmishers and in numerous small patrols, endeavouring to
work forward in the folds of the ground, and to sneak towards us in the
gullies. But all of them were received with well directed rifle fire
and the enemy suffered many losses. Towards nightfall the attempts to
continue his advance died away.

That was, literally, the end of the great German advance in this part
of the field, and although, as will be told later, the enemy renewed
the attempt on several subsequent occasions to reach Amiens, he gained
not a single inch of ground, but, on the contrary, was compelled in
front of us to undertake a slow but steady retrograde movement.

Our reconnoitring patrols discovered, however, that the enemy already
had possession of the village of Sailly-Laurette, and of Marett and
Treux Woods, but that he was not yet in great strength on the crest
of the plateau. Orders were issued to perfect the organization of our
defensive line, put out wire entanglements, dig-in machine guns, and
rest the troops in relays during the coming night, but not to attempt
any forward movement until the next night.

My Artillery and other mounted units were still half a day's march
away; but Brigadier-General Grimwade, their Commander, had been
instructed to push on in advance, with the whole of the Commanders of
his Brigades and Batteries. They arrived on the scene in sufficient
time to enable the whole situation to be examined in the daylight, and
for detailed action to be decided upon. The Artillery kept coming in
during the whole of the following night, and although men and horses
were almost exhausted after two days of forced marching, their spirits
were never higher. Next morning found the guns already in action, and
engaging all bodies of the enemy who dared to expose themselves to view.

I must now turn to the Fourth Australian Division. They had been less
fortunate in several respects. Maclagan was directed to leave behind
his 4th Brigade, which had on the 26th speedily become committed to
important operations under the 62nd Division in front of Hebuterne,
from which village this Brigade had driven the enemy. This left him
with only two Brigades, the 12th and 13th. He was faced with the
obligation of bringing his already over-tired infantry, by route march,
down from the Basseux area, to the high ground west and south-west of
Albert. That town had fallen and the situation there had, by the 26th,
also become very critical.

This march was, however, accomplished in strict accordance with orders,
and was a remarkable feat of endurance by the troops of the 12th and
13th Brigades. There can be no doubt, however, that the effort was more
than justified, for the mere presence, in a position of readiness,
of these two Australian Brigades, did much to steady the situation
opposite Albert, by heartening the line troops and stimulating their
Commanders to hang on for a little longer. It was this last effort
which brought to a standstill the German advance north of the Ancre, as
the entry of the Third Division had stopped that to the south of that

After his two Brigades had had only four hours' rest, Maclagan
took over, with them, the control of the fighting front, opposite
Dernancourt and Albert, which the Seventh Corps had allotted to him.

Thus, by the night of the 27th, as the result of the rapid movements
which I have described and the ready response of the troops, there was
already in position the nucleus of a stout defence by five Australian
Brigades, stretching almost continuously from Hebuterne to the Somme,
while another Australian Brigade, the 9th, remained still uncommitted.

But the situation south of the Somme gave cause for the gravest
anxiety. The north flank of the French was hourly retiring in a
south-westerly direction, and the ever widening gap was filled only by
a scratch force of odd units supported and assisted by a few elements
of the First Cavalry Division. The right flank of our Third Army,
therefore, lay exposed to the danger of being turned, if the enemy
should succeed in pressing his advantage as far west as Corbie, and in
crossing the river at or west of that town.

It was for this reason that, after a conference with General Congreve,
late in the day, I decided to deploy my 9th Brigade along the Somme
from Sailly-le-Sec westward as far as Aubigny,[4]--far too extended a
front for one Brigade, but at least an effort to dispute the passage by
the enemy of the existing bridges and lock-gates over the Somme.

The two following days were full of toil and hard travelling in
establishing touch with Divisional Headquarters to the north and south
of me, in arranging for co-ordinated action with them, and in gleaning
all possible information as to the situation, and as to the number and
condition of other troops available in an emergency.

It was an especial pleasure for the Australian troops to find
themselves fighting in these days in close association with famous
British Cavalry Regiments, and that these feelings were reciprocated
may be gathered from the following letter from Major-General Mullens,
who commanded the First Cavalry Division, which was devoting its
energies to covering the gap between the Somme and the French flank:


  "I was hoping to have come to see you, when the battle allowed, to
  thank you, your Artillery Commander, and your Brigadiers who were
  alongside of my Division, for your most valuable and encouraging
  support and assistance, especially on the 30th March, when we
  had a hard fight to keep the Bosche out of our position. I was
  very much struck by the courtesy of yourself and your officers
  in coming to see me personally, and for your own and their keen
  desire to do everything in their power to help. As you know, we
  had a curious collection of units to deal with, and it was a very
  real relief to know that I had your stout-hearted fellows on my
  left flank and that all worry was therefore eliminated as to the
  safety of my flanks. Your order for the placing of your heavy guns
  and batteries so as to cover my front was of very real assistance,
  and incidentally they killed a lot of Huns, and what they did was
  much appreciated by us all. Will you convey to all concerned my own
  appreciation, and that of all ranks of the 1st Cavalry Division. It
  was a pleasure and an honour to be fighting alongside troops who
  displayed such magnificent _moral_. I only hope we may have the
  chance of co-operating with you again, and under more favourable

  "Yours sincerely,
  (Sgnd.) "R. L. MULLENS."

On the night of March 29th I advanced my line, pivotting on my right,
until my left rested on the Ancre east of Buire, an extreme advance of
over 2,000 yards, meeting some opposition and taking a few prisoners.
This deprived the enemy of over a mile of valuable vantage ground on
the crest of the plateau along which ran the main road from Corbie to

[Illustration: MAP A.]

By that time it was apparent that the enemy's Artillery resources
were hourly accumulating, and on the next afternoon he delivered a
determined attack along my whole front, employing two Divisions. The
attack was completely repelled, with an estimated loss to the enemy of
at least 3,000 killed. My Artillery were firing over open sights and
had never in their previous experience had such tempting targets.

On the previous day, however, the situation between the Somme and
Villers-Bretonneux, and still further to the south, had become
desperate; and much to my discomfiture I was ordered to hand over my
9th Brigade (Rosenthal) for duty with the 61st Division, in order to
reinforce that dissolving sector. My importunity as to the necessity
for maintaining the defence of my river flank, however, led the
Seventh Corps Commander to let me have, in exchange, the 15th Brigade
(Elliott), which was the first Brigade of the Fifth Australian Division
to arrive from Flanders on the present scene of operations. This
interchange of Brigades was completed by the 30th.

That day was further marked by a concentrated bombardment of the
village of Franvillers, in which I had established my Headquarters.
Although no serious loss was suffered, the responsible work of my Staff
was disturbed. On reporting the occurrence to General Congreve, he
insisted upon my moving my Headquarters back to St. Gratien, which move
was completed the next day.

On April 4th the enemy attacked, in force, south of the Somme, and the
village of Hamel was lost to us by the rout of the remnants of a very
exhausted British Division which had been sent in the night before to
defend it. This success gave the enemy a footing upon a portion of Hill
104, and brought him to the eastern outskirts of Villers-Bretonneux.
Three months later it cost the Australian Corps a concentrated effort
to compel him to surrender these advantages.

One last and final attempt to break through the Australian phalanx
north of the Somme was made by the enemy on April 5th. The full weight
of this blow fell chiefly upon the gallant Fourth Australian Division.
The battle of Dernancourt will live long in the annals of military
history as an example of dogged and successful defence. The whole day
long the enemy expended Division after Division in the vain endeavour
to compel two weak Australian Brigades to loosen their hold on the
important high ground lying west of Albert. He well knew that the
capture by him of these heights involved the inevitable withdrawal of
the Third Australian Division also, and that thereby the path to Amiens
would again lie open.

The great German blow against the important railway centre of Amiens
had been parried, and from this time onwards interest in this sphere
of operations rapidly waned. It blazed up again for a few hours only
when, three weeks later, the enemy made his final attempt to reach
his goal, on this occasion by way of Villers-Bretonneux. North of
the Somme, his activity quickly died down, and the attitude of both
combatants gradually assumed the old familiar aspect of trench warfare,
with its endless digging of trenches, line behind line, its weary
trench routine, and its elaborate installation of permanent lines of
communication and of administrative establishments of all descriptions.

South of the Somme, the Fifth Australian Division came into the line on
April 5th, relieving a Cavalry Division on a frontage of about 5,000
yards, and thereby obviating any further necessity for the maintenance
of my flank river defence. This duty had been performed for me in
succession by the 15th Australian, the 104th Imperial and the 13th
Australian Brigades (the latter then under Glasgow). My 9th Brigade
still remained detached from me, operating under both the 18th and 61st
British Divisions, and performed prodigies of valorous fighting in a
series of desperate local attacks and counter-attacks, which took place
between Villers-Bretonneux and Hangard, where the French northern flank
then lay. In this service the 9th Brigade received gallant co-operation
from the 5th Australian Brigade (of the 2nd Australian Division), which
was now also arriving in this area, after having been relieved from
trench garrison duty in the Messines--Warneton sector in Flanders.

The Fifth Division and these two detached Brigades were, during
this period, serving under the Third Corps (Butler), which had been
reconstituted to fill the gap between the Somme and the flank of
the French Army. The First Australian Division was already well on
the way to follow the Second Division, when, on April 11th, it was
hurriedly re-transferred to Flanders to assist in stemming the new
German flood which was inundating the whole of that region, and which
was not arrested until it had almost reached Hazebrouck. This task the
First Australian Division performed most valiantly, thereby upholding
the reputation already earned by its younger sister Divisions for a
capacity for rapid, ordered movement and decisive intervention at a
critical juncture.

For some days there had been rumours that the Australian Corps
Headquarters would shortly be transferred to the Amiens area, and
would once again gather under its control the numerous elements of
the four Australian Divisions which were by now widely scattered, and
had been fighting under the orders of three different Army Corps.
There was the still more interesting and pregnant rumour that General
Lord Rawlinson--relinquishing his post of British representative on
the Supreme War Council at Versailles--was soon to arrive and to form
and command a reconstituted Fourth British Army,[5] which was to be
composed of the Australian and the Third (British) Army Corps.


[3] The majority of the place-names mentioned in the remainder of this
chapter will be found on Maps A or J.

[4] Two miles west of Corbie.

[5] The Fourth Army had disappeared when, in 1917, General Rawlinson
went to Versailles. The Fifth Army was not revived until June, 1918.



The Australian Corps Headquarters, under General Birdwood, commenced
its activities at Villers-Bocage on April 7th, but soon after removed
to the handsome seventeenth-century Château at Bertangles, with its
pleasant grounds and spacious parks. One by one the detached Australian
Brigades rejoined their Divisions, and the Divisions themselves came
back under the orders of their own Corps.

The comparative calm which had supervened upon all the excitement of
the closing days of March and the first weeks of April was rudely
broken when, before daybreak on April 24th, the enemy began a furious
bombardment of the whole region extending from opposite Albert to a
point as far south as Hangard. It was certain that this demonstration
was the prelude of an infantry attack in force, but it was not until
well after midday that the situation clarified, and it became known
that the attack had been confined to the country south of the Somme,
that it had struck the southern flank of the Fifth Australian Division,
which had stood firm and had thereby saved the loss of the remainder of
the tactically important Hill 104. But the town of Villers-Bretonneux,
lying beyond the Australian sector, had fallen and the Germans were in
possession of it.

It was imperative to retrieve this situation, or at least to make an
attempt to do so. The nearest available reserve Brigades of Infantry
were Australian, the 13th under Glasgow, and the 15th under Elliott.
They were placed under the orders of the Third Corps, and by them
directed to recapture the town.

Both Brigades had to make long marches to reach the battleground. It
was already dark before they had deployed on the appointed lines of
departure. The details of this enthralling and wonderful night attack
form too lengthy a story to find a place in this brief narrative;
suffice it to say that when the sun rose on the third Anniversary of
Anzac Day, it looked down upon the Australians in full possession of
the whole town, and standing upon our original lines of twenty-four
hours before, with nearly 1,000 German prisoners to their credit.

In this summary fashion, the last German attempt to split in two the
Allied Armies failed ignominiously, and the attempt was never again

A comprehensive rearrangement of the whole Front in this much-contested
region then took place. The appointment of Marshal Foch as Supreme
Commander on the Western Front bore, as one of its first fruits, a
clear decision as to the final point of junction between the French and
the British Armies. This was fixed just south of Villers-Bretonneux,
and not at the Somme Valley, as was thought desirable by some of the
British Commanders.

The new Fourth Army became the flank British Army in contact with the
French. The Australian Corps became the south flank of that Army. Its
sector extended, from the point named, northwards as far as the Ancre.
The Third Corps was transferred to the north of the Ancre, opposite
Albert, and those two Corps comprised, for some time to come, the whole
of the Fourth Army resources.

The Australian Corps now organized its front with three Divisions in
line and one in reserve. My occupation, with the Third Australian
Division, of the original sector between the Ancre and the Somme
remained undisturbed, and my front line remained for a time stationary
on the alignment gained on March 29th.

But the Third Division had had enough of stationary warfare, and
the troops were athirst for adventure. They were tired of raids,
which meant a mere incursion into enemy territory, and a subsequent
withdrawal, after doing as much damage as possible.

Accordingly, I resolved to embark upon a series of minor battles,
designed not merely to capture prisoners and machine guns, but also
to hold on to the ground gained. This would invite counter-attacks
which I knew could only enhance the balance in our favour, and would
seriously disorganize the enemy's whole defensive system, while wearing
out his nerves and lowering the _moral_ of his troops.

Four such miniature battles[6] were fought in rapid succession, on
April 30th and May 3rd, 6th and 7th, by the 9th and 10th Brigades, who
were then in line. These yielded most satisfactory results. Not only
did we capture several hundred prisoners and numerous machine guns, but
also advanced our whole line an average total distance of a mile. This
deprived the enemy of valuable observation, and forced back his whole
Artillery organization.

But these combats, and the numerous offensive patrol operations, which
were also nightly undertaken along my whole front, did a great deal
more. They yielded a constant stream of prisoners, who at this stage of
the war had become sufficiently demoralized by their disappointments to
talk freely, and impart a mass of valuable information as to movements
and conditions behind the German lines.

The following list of 41 separate identifications, covering a total
of over 300 prisoners, represents the fruits of these efforts during
the period from March 27th to May 11th. From these it will be seen
that during these six weeks I had been confronted by no less than six
different German Divisions:

  _No._      _Date._          _Identification._
   1       28.3.18         3 Gren. R.   1st Div.
   2          "           13 I.R.       13   "
   3          "            3 Gren. R.   1st  "
   4          "            1 I.R.       1st  "
              "           13 I.R.       13   "
   5          "           86 Fus. R.    18   "
   6          "            1 I.R.       1st  "
   7       30.3.18        13 I.R.       13   "
   8          "           31 I.R.       18   "
   9       31.3.18                      18   "
  10        1.4.18        20 Foot Arty.
  11        2.4.18         3  "    "
  12      2/3.4.18         1 R.R.Bav.  Ft. Arty.
  13          "           13 I.R.       13  Div.
  14      4/5.4.18         1 M.W.Coy.   1st Div.
  15      6/7.4.18         3 Jäger Bn.
  16     9/10.4.18        31 I.R.       18   "
  17    11/12.4.18        31 I.R.       18   "
  18    13/14.4.18        86 Fus. R.    18   "
  19          "           31 I.R.       18   "
  20    14/15.4.18        85 I.R.       18   "
  21          "           31 I.R.       18   "
  22    17/18.4.18       229 R.I.R.     30   "
  23    18/19.4.18       231 R.I.R.     50   "
  24          "           85 I.R.       18   "
  25    19/20.4.18        85 I.R.       18   "
  26    25/26.4.18       246 R.I.R.     54  Res. Div.
  27    27/28.4.18       229 R.I.R.     50   "    "
  28    28/29.4.18       247 R.I.R.     54   "    "
  29     30/1.5.18       247 R.I.R.     54   "    "
  30      3/4.5.18       357 I.R.      199  Div.
  31      4/5.5.18       114 I.R.      199   "
  32          "           31 I.R.       18   "
  33      5/6.5.18       237 R.I.R.    199   "
  34          "          114 I.R.      199   "
  35      6/7.5.18       237 R.I.R.    199   "
  36      7/8.5.18       114 I.R.      199   "
  37      8/9.5.18       114 I.R.      199   "
  38         "           237 R.I.R.    199   "
  39         "            31 I.R.       18   "
  40        "            357 I.R.      199   "
  41        "            357 I.R.      199   "

  I.R.=Infantry Regiment; R.I.R.=Reserve ditto.

While I was thus exerting a steady pressure on the enemy and gaining
ground easterly, the Australian Corps line south of the Somme remained
stationary, and each successive advance north of the river served only
to accentuate the deep re-entrant which had been formed on the day when
the loss of Hamel forced the British front line back along the Somme as
far as Vaire-sous-Corbie.

While this was not very serious from the point of view of observation,
because I was in possession of much the higher ground, and was able to
look down, almost as upon a map, on to the enemy in the Hamel basin,
yet I was beginning to feel very seriously the inconvenience of having,
square on to my flank, such excellent concealed Artillery positions as
Vaire and Hamel Woods, which the enemy did not long delay in occupying.

Moreover, the whole of the slopes of the valley on my side of the river
remained useless to me, because they were exposed to the full view of
the enemy, so long as he was permitted to occupy the Hamel salient,
which he had on April 5th driven into the very middle of what was now
the Corps front. I therefore made more than one attempt to persuade the
then Corps Commander to undertake an operation for the elimination in
whole or in part of this inconvenient bend, but, for reasons doubtless
satisfactory at that time, he declined to accept the suggestion. It
fell to my lot myself to carry out this operation nearly two months

The Third Division was, however, relieved in the line by our Second
Division on May 11th, and was withdrawn for a short but well-earned
rest after six weeks of trench duty, following its first fateful rush
into the thick of the battle.

It was on May 12th that I received the first intimation from General
Sir William Birdwood that he was to be appointed to the command of a
new Fifth Army, which the British War Council had decided to form, and
that, upon his taking up these new duties, the task of leading the
Australian Army Corps would devolve upon me.

In consequence of this and other changes, it was shortly afterwards
decided, in consultation, that Glasgow should take over the command of
the First Division, then still fighting at Hazebrouck, that Rosenthal
should command the Second Division, and that Gellibrand should succeed
me at the head of the Third Division.

Far, therefore, from being permitted a little respite from the
strenuous labours of the preceding six weeks, I found myself confronted
with responsibilities which, in point of numbers alone, exceeded
sixfold those which I had previously had to bear, but which, in point
of difficulty, involved an even higher ratio.

There were numerous Arms and Services, under the Corps, with whose
detailed functions and methods of operation I had not been previously
concerned. The other Divisional Commanders had hitherto been my
colleagues, and I was now called upon to consider their personalities
and temperaments as my subordinates. There was a vastly increased
territory for whose administration and defence I would become
responsible. I had to be prepared to enter an atmosphere of policy
higher and larger than that which surrounded me as the Commander of a
Division. And finally there was the selection of my new Staff.

[Illustration: German Prisoners--taken by the Corps at Hamel, being
marched to the rear.]

[Illustration: Visit of Monsieur Clemenceau--group taken at Bussy on
July 7th, 1918.]

My last executive work with the Third Division was the process
of putting this Division back into the line, this time in the
Villers-Bretonneux sector of our front. After handing over the Division
and all its outstanding current affairs to Major-General Gellibrand,
I assumed command of the Australian Army Corps on May 30th, with
Brigadier-General Blamey as my Chief-of-Staff.[7]

I very soon became aware that, as Corps Commander, I was privileged to
have access to a very large body of interesting secret information,
which was methodically distributed daily by G.H.Q. Intelligence. This
comprised detailed information of the true facts of all happenings
on the fronts of all the Allies, the gist of the reports of our
Secret Service, and very full particulars from which the nature and
distribution of the enemy's military resources could be deduced with
fair accuracy.

The numberings and locations of all his Corps and Divisions actually
in the front line, on all the Allied fronts, was, of course, quite
definitely known from day to day. The numberings of all Formations
lying in Reserve were known with equal certainty, although their actual
positions on any date were largely a matter of deduction by expert
investigators. Of particular importance were the further deductions
which could be drawn as to the condition of readiness or exhaustion
of such reserve Divisions, from known facts as to their successive
appearance and experiences on any active battle front.

Our experts were thus able to classify the enemy Divisions, and to
determine from day to day the probable number, and even the probable
numberings, of fit Divisions actually available (after one, or after
two, or after three days) to reinforce any portion of the front which
was to be the object of an attack by us. They could also compute the
number of fit Divisions which the enemy had at his disposal at any time
for launching an offensive against us.

All such data had a very direct bearing, not only on the probable
course of the campaign in the immediate future, but also upon the
responsibility which always weighed upon a Corps Commander of keeping
his own sector in preparedness to meet an attack or to prevent such an
attack from coming upon him as a surprise. He must therefore be alert
to watch the signs and astute to read them aright.

One striking feature of the information at our disposal during the
early part of June was the steady melting away of the enemy reserves
as the consequence of his resultless, even if locally successful,
assaults during the preceding two and a half months, against Amiens,
in Flanders, and on the Chemin des Dames. But it was apparent that he
still held formidable Reserves of Infantry, and a practically intact
Artillery, which he was bound to employ for at least one great and
final effort to gain a decision.

The junction of the French and British Armies still offered a tempting
point of weakness. As mine was now the flank British Corps, in
immediate contact with General Toulorge's 31st French Corps, I could
not afford to relax any of the precautions of vigilance or preparation
which had been initiated by my predecessor for meeting such an attack.
Consequently, during June, 1918, I ordered on the part of all my line
Divisions a maintenance of their energetic efforts to perfect the
defensive organizations. I also undertook out of other Corps labour
resources the development of further substantial rear systems of
defence, so that Amiens need not, in the event of a renewed attack, be
abandoned to its fate without a prolonged struggle.

The First Australian Division was not yet a part of my new Command,
its continued presence in the Hazebrouck and Merris area, under the
Fifteenth Corps, being still considered indispensable. My Corps front
now extended over a total length of ten miles, and I had but four
Divisions at my disposal to defend it. Three Divisions held the line,
one to the north and two to the south of the Somme. Only one Division
at a time could therefore be permitted a short rest, and this Division
formed my only tactical reserve.

All this added to the anxieties of the situation, and focussed the
energies of the whole command on a constant scrutiny of all signs and
symptoms that the enemy might be preparing to deliver his next blow
against us. Active patrolling was maintained and continued to yield
a steady stream of prisoners. A well conceived and planned minor
enterprise by the Second Division, which was carried out on June 10th,
and was Rosenthal's first Divisional operation, gave us possession
of a further slice of the important ridge between Sailly-Laurette
and Morlancourt. It gained us 330 prisoners and 33 machine guns. But
no sign of any preparations on the part of the enemy for an attack
upon us, in this zone, emerged from the careful investigations which
followed this operation.

The days passed and evidences increased that the enemy was now
beginning to devote his further attentions to the French front far to
the south of us. At any rate, he continued to leave us unmolested, and
the interrogations of our numerous prisoners all confirmed the absence
of any preparations for an attack.

The defensive attitude which the situation thus forced upon us did
not for long suit the present temper of the Australian troops, and
I sought for a promising enterprise on which again to test their
offensive power, on a scale larger than we had yet attempted in the
year's campaign. There had been no Allied offensive, of any appreciable
size, on any of our fronts, in any of the many theatres of war, since
the close of the Passchendaele fighting in the autumn of 1917.

It was high time that the anxiety and nervousness of the public, at
the sinister encroachments of the enemy upon regions which he had
never previously trodden, should be allayed by a demonstration that
there was still some kick left in the British Army. It was high time,
too, that some Commanders on our side of No Man's Land should begin to
"think offensively," and cease to look over their shoulders in order to
estimate how far it still was to the coast.

I was ambitious that any such kick should be administered, first,
at any rate, by the Australians. A visit which I was privileged to
pay to General Elles, Commander of the Tank Corps, when he gave me
a demonstration of the capacities of the newer types of Tanks, only
confirmed me in this ambition. Finally, the Hamel re-entrant had for
two months been, as I have already explained, a source of annoyance and
anxiety to me. It was for these reasons that I resolved to propose an
operation for the recapture of Hamel, conditional upon being supplied
with the assistance of Tanks, a small increase of my Artillery and an
addition to my air resources.

I thereupon set about preparing a general plan for such a battle,
which was to be my first Corps operation. Having mentioned the matter
first verbally to Lord Rawlinson, he requested me to submit a concrete
proposal in writing. The communication is here reproduced, and will
serve to convey an idea of the complexities involved in even so
relatively small an undertaking:

  Australian Corps.
  21st June, 1918.

  _Fourth Army._


1. With reference to my proposal for an offensive operation on the
front of the "A" and "B" Divisions of this Corps, with a view to
the capture of HAMEL Village and VAIRE and HAMEL WOOD, etc., the
accompanying map shows, in blue, the proposed ultimate objective
line. This line has been chosen as representing the minimum
operation that would appear to be worth undertaking, while offering
a prospect of substantial advantages.

2. These advantages may be briefly summarized thus:
  (a) Straightening of our line.
  (b) Shortening of our line.
  (c) Deepening our forward defensive zone, particularly east of Hill
  (d) Improvement of jumping-off position for future operations.
  (e) Advancement of our artillery, south of the SOMME.
  (f) Denial to enemy of observation of ground near VAUX-SUR-SOMME,
      valuable for battery positions.
  (g) Facilitating subsequent further minor advances north of the
  (h) Disorganization of enemy defences.
  (i) Disorganization of possible enemy offensive preparations.
  (j) Inflicting losses on enemy personnel and material.
  (k) Improvement of our observation.
  (l) Maintenance of our initiative on this Corps front.

3. The disadvantages are those arising from the necessity of bringing
into rapid existence a new defensive system on a frontage of 7,000
yards and also the particular incidence, at the present juncture, of
the inevitable losses, small or large, of such an operation in this

4. In view of the unsatisfactory position of Australian reinforcements,
any substantial losses would precipitate the time when the question of
the reduction in the number of Australian Divisions would have to be
seriously considered. It is for higher authority to decide whether a
portion of the present resources in Australian man-power in this Corps
would be more profitably ventured upon such an operation as this, which
is in itself a very attractive proposition, rather than to conserve
such resources for employment elsewhere.

5. Detailed plans can only be prepared after I have had conferences
with representatives of all Arms and Services involved, but the
following proposals are submitted as the basis of further elaboration:

  (a) The operation will be primarily a Tank operation--at least one
      and preferably two Battalions of Tanks to be employed.
  (b) The whole battle front will be placed temporarily under command
      of one Divisional Commander--by a temporary readjustment of
      inter-Divisional boundaries.
  (c) The infantry employed will comprise one Division plus a
      Brigade, _i.e._, 4 Infantry Brigades, totalling, say, 7,500
      bayonets; about one-half of this force to be employed in the
      advance and the other half to hold our present front defensively,
      taking over the captured territory within 48 hours after Zero.[8]
  (d) The action will be designed on lines to permit of the Tanks
      effecting the capture of the ground; the rôles of the Infantry
      following the Tanks will be:
        (i) to assist in reducing strong points and localities.
        (ii) to "mop up."
        (iii) to consolidate the ground captured.
  (e) Apart from neutralizing all enemy artillery likely to engage our
      troops, our artillery will be employed to keep under fire enemy
      centres of resistance and selected targets--in front of the advance
      of the Tanks. Artillery detailed for close targets will work on a
      prearranged and detailed time-table which will be adjusted to the
      time-table of the Tank and Infantry advance. Sufficient "silent"
      field artillery supplied before the battle should be emplaced in
      advanced positions, to ensure an effective protective barrage
      to cover consolidation on the blue line,[9] and to engage all
      localities from which enemy counter-attacks can be launched. It is
      estimated that, in addition to the resources of the Corps, four
      Field Artillery Brigades will be required for, say, four days in
  (f) Engineer stores in sufficient quantities to provide for the
      complete organization of the new defences will require to be dumped
      beforehand as far forward as practicable.
  (g) No additional machine guns, outside of Corps resources, will be
  (h) Contact and counter-attack planes and low-flying bombing planes
      prior to and during advance must be arranged for.
  (i) Artillery and mortar smoke to screen the operations from view of
      all ground north of the Somme in the SAILLY-LAURETTE locality are

6. As to the date of the operations, the necessary preparations will
occupy at least seven days after authority to proceed has been given.
As an inter-Divisional relief is planned to occur on June 28th-29th and
29th-30th, it would seem that this operation cannot take place earlier
than the first week in July. The postponement of this relief would not
be desirable for several reasons.

7. Valuable training in the joint action of Tanks and Infantry can be
arranged, probably in the territory west of the HALLUE Valley--provided
that one or two Tank Companies can be detached for such a purpose.
Thorough liaison prior to and during the operation between all Tank
and all Infantry Commanders would have to be a special feature. For
this reason only Infantry units not in the line can be considered as
available to undergo the necessary preparation.

  Cmdg. Australian Corps.

Approval to these proposals was given without delay; the additional
resources were promised, and preparations for the battle were
immediately put in hand. As I hope, in a later context, to attempt to
describe the evolution of a battle plan, and the comprehensive measures
which are associated with such an enterprise, it will not be necessary
to do so here.

It was the straightening of the Corps front, as an essential
preliminary to any offensive operations on a still larger scale, to
be undertaken when the opportune moment should arrive, that made the
Hamel proposal tactically attractive; it was the availability of an
improved type of Tank that gave it promise of success, without pledging
important resources, or risking serious losses.

The new Mark V. Tank had not previously been employed in battle. It
marked a great advance upon the earlier types. The epicyclic gearing
with which it was now furnished, the greater power of its engines,
the improved balance of its whole design gave it increased mobility,
facility in turning and immunity from foundering in ground even of the
most broken and uneven character. It could be driven and steered by one
man, where it previously took four; and it rarely suffered suspended
animation from engine trouble.

But, above all, the men of the Tank Corps had, by the training which
they had undergone, and by the spirited leadership of Generals Elles,
Courage, Hankey and other Tank Commanders, achieved a higher standard
of skill, enterprise and moral; they were now, more than ever, on their
mettle to uphold the prestige of the Tank Corps.

All the same, the Tanks had become anathema to the Australian troops.
For, at Bullecourt more than a year before, they had failed badly,
and had "let down" the gallant Infantry, who suffered heavily in
consequence; a failure due partly to the mechanical defects of the
Tanks of those days, partly to the inexperience of the crews, and
partly to indifferent staff arrangements, in the co-ordination of the
combined action of the Infantry and the Tanks.

It was not an easy problem to restore to the Australian soldier his
lost confidence, or to teach him the sympathetic dependence upon the
due performance by the Tanks of the rôles to be allotted to them, which
was essential to a complete utilization of the possibilities which were
now opening up. That the Tanks, appropriately utilized, were destined
to exert a paramount influence upon the course of the war, was apparent
to those who could envisage the future.

This problem was intensified because the battalions of the Fourth
Division who were to carry out the Infantry tasks at Hamel were the
very units who had undergone that unfortunate experience at Bullecourt.
But, on the principle of restoring the nerves of the unseated rider by
remounting him to continue the hunt, it was especially important to
wean the Fourth Division from their prejudices.

Battalion after battalion of the 4th, 6th and 11th Brigades of Infantry
was brought by bus to Vaux, a little village tucked away in a quiet
valley, north-west of Amiens, there to spend the day at play with the
Tanks. The Tanks kept open house, and, in the intervals of more formal
rehearsals of tactical schemes of attack, the Infantry were taken
over the field for "joy rides," were allowed to clamber all over the
monsters, inside and out, and even to help to drive them and put them
through their paces. Platoon and Company leaders met dozens of Tank
officers face to face, and they argued each other to a standstill upon
every aspect that arose.

Set-piece manoeuvre exercises on the scale of a battalion were designed
and rehearsed over and over again; red flags marked enemy machine-gun
posts; real wire entanglements were laid out to show how easily the
Tanks could mow them down; real trenches were dug for the Tanks to
leap and straddle and search with fire; real rifle grenades were fired
by the Infantry to indicate to the Tanks the enemy strong points
which were molesting and impeding their advance. The Tanks would throw
themselves upon these places, and, pirouetting round and round, would
blot them out, much as a man's heel would crush a scorpion.

It was invaluable as mere training for battle, but the effect upon the
spirits of the men was remarkable. The fame of the Tanks, and all the
wonderful things they could do, spread rapidly throughout the Corps.
The "digger" took the Tank to his heart, and ever after, each Tank
was given a pet name by the Company of Infantry which it served in
battle, a name which was kept chalked on its iron sides, together with
a panegyric commentary upon its prowess.

There remained, however, much to be arranged, and many difficult
questions to be settled, as regards the tactical employment of the
Tanks. I can never be sufficiently grateful to Brigadier-General
Courage, of the 5th Tank Brigade, for his diligent assistance, and
for his loyal acceptance of the onerous conditions which the tactical
methods that I finally decided upon imposed upon the Tanks.

These methods involved two entirely new principles. Firstly, each
Tank was, for tactical purposes, to be treated as an Infantry weapon;
from the moment that it entered the battle until the objective had
been gained it was to be under the exclusive orders of the Infantry
Commander to whom it had been assigned.

Secondly, the deployed line of Tanks was to advance, _level with the
Infantry_, and pressing close up to the barrage. This, of course,
subjected the Tanks, which towered high above the heads of the
neighbouring infantry, to the danger of being struck by any of our own
shells which happened to fall a little short. Tank experts, consulted
beforehand, considered therefore that it was not practicable for Tanks
to follow close behind an artillery barrage. The battle of Hamel proved
that it was.


[6] See Map A.

[7] A farewell order to the Third Division was issued in the following

"As I am about to take up other duties the time has come when I must
relinquish the command of the Division.

"Closely associated with you as I have been, since the days of your
first assembly and War Training in ENGLAND, and, later, throughout all
your magnificent work during the past nineteen months in the war zone,
it is naturally a severe wrench for me to part from you.

"I find it quite impossible to give adequate expression to my feelings
of gratitude towards all ranks for the splendid and loyal support which
you have, at all times, accorded to me. I am deeply indebted to my
Staff, to all Commanders and to the officers and troops of all Arms and
Services for a whole-hearted co-operation upon which, more than upon
any other factor, the success of the Division has depended.

"It is my earnest hope, and also my sincere conviction, that the fine
spirit and the high efficiency of the Division will be maintained
under the leadership of my successor, Brigadier-General Gellibrand;
and if the men of the Division feel, as I trust they do, an obligation
to perpetuate for my sake the traditions built up by them during the
period of my command, they can do so in no better way than by rendering
to him a service as thorough and a support as loyal as I have been
privileged to enjoy at their hands.

"In formally wishing the Division good-bye and good luck, I wish
simply, but none the less sincerely, to thank each and all of you, for
all that you have done.

  "(Signed) JOHN MONASH,

[8] "Zero" refers to the day and hour, not yet determined, on which the
battle is to begin.

[9] "Blue Line," arbitrarily so called, because this line was drawn on
the accompanying map in blue. It was to be the final objective for the



The larger questions relating to the employment of the Tanks at the
battle of Hamel having been disposed of, the remaining arrangements
for the battle presented few novel aspects. Their manner of execution,
however, brought into prominence some features which became fundamental
doctrines in the Australian Corps then and thereafter.

Although complete written orders were invariably prepared and issued by
a General Staff whose skill and industry left nothing to be desired,
very great importance was attached to the holding of conferences, at
which were assembled every one of the Senior Commanders and heads of
Departments concerned in the impending operation. At these I personally
explained every detail of the plan, and assured myself that all present
applied an identical interpretation to all orders that had been issued.

Questions were invited; difficulties were cleared up; and the
conflicting views of the different services on matters of technical
detail were ventilated. The points brought to an issue were invariably
decided on the spot. The battle plan having been thus crystallized,
no subsequent alterations were permissible, under any circumstances,
no matter how tempting. This fixity of plan engendered a confidence
throughout the whole command which facilitated the work of every
Commander and Staff Officer. It obviated the vicious habit of
postponing action until the last possible moment, lest counter orders
should necessitate some alternative action. It was a powerful factor
in the gaining of time, usually all too short for the extensive
preparations necessary.

The final Corps Conference for the battle of Hamel was held at
Bertangles on June 30th, and the date of the battle itself was fixed
for July 4th. This selection was prompted partly by the desire to allow
ample time for the completion of all arrangements; but there were also
sentimental grounds, because this was the anniversary of the American
national holiday, and a considerable contingent of the United States
Army was to co-operate in the fight.

For some weeks previously the 33rd American Division, under
Major-General John Bell, had been training in the Fourth Army area,
and its several regiments had been distributed, for training and
trench experience, to the Australian and the III. Corps. I had applied
to the Fourth Army and had received approval to employ in the battle
a contingent equivalent in strength to two British battalions, or a
total of about 2,000 men, organized in eight companies. The very proper
condition was attached, however, that these Americans should not be
split up and scattered individually among the Australians, but should
fight at least as complete platoons, under their own platoon leaders.

All went well until three days before the appointed date, when General
Rawlinson conveyed to me the instruction that, the matter having been
reconsidered, only 1,000 Americans were to be used. Strongly averse,
as I was, from embarrassing the Infantry plans of General Maclagan, to
whom I had entrusted the conduct of the actual assault, it was not then
too late to rearrange the distribution.

The four companies of United States troops who, under this decision,
had to be withdrawn were loud in their lamentations, but the remaining
four companies were distributed by platoons among the troops of the
three Australian Brigades who were to carry out the attack--each
American platoon being assigned a definite place in the line of battle.
The dispositions of the main body of Australian infantry were based
upon this arrangement.

In the meantime, somewhere in the upper realms of high control, a
discussion must have been going on as to the propriety of after
all allowing any American troops at all to participate in the
forthcoming operations. Whether the objections were founded upon
policy, or upon an under-estimate of the fitness of these troops for
offensive fighting, I have never been able to ascertain; but, to my
consternation, I received about four o'clock on the afternoon of July
3rd, a telephone message from Lord Rawlinson to the effect that it had
now been decided that _no_ American troops were to be used the next day.

I was, at the moment, while on my daily round of visits to Divisions
and Brigades, at the Headquarters of the Third Division, at Glisy, and
far from my own station. I could only request that the Army Commander
might be so good as to come at once to the forward area and meet me at
Bussy-les-Daours, the Headquarters of Maclagan--he being the Commander
immediately affected by this proposed change of plan. In due course we
all met at five o'clock, Rawlinson being accompanied by Montgomery, his

It was a meeting full of tense situations--and of grave import. At that
moment of time, the whole of the Infantry destined for the assault at
dawn next morning, including those very Americans, was already well
on its way to its battle stations; the Artillery was in the act of
dissolving its defensive organization with a view to moving forward
into its battle emplacements as soon as dusk should fall; I well knew
that even if orders could still with certainty reach the battalions
concerned, the withdrawal of those Americans would result in untold
confusion and in dangerous gaps in our line of battle.

Even had I been ready to risk the success of the battle by going ahead
without them, I could not afford to take the further risk of the
occurrence of something in the nature of an "international incident"
between the troops concerned, whose respective points of view about the
resulting situation could be readily surmised. So I resolved to take a
firm stand and press my views as strongly as I dared; for even a Corps
Commander must use circumspection when presuming to argue with an Army

However, disguised in the best diplomatic language that I was able to
command, my representations amounted to this: firstly, that it was
already too late to carry out the order; secondly, that the battle
would have to go on either with the Americans participating, or not
at all; thirdly, that unless I were expressly ordered to abandon the
battle, I intended to go on as originally planned; and lastly, that
unless I received such a cancellation order before 6.30 p.m. it would
in any case be too late to stop the battle, the preliminary phases of
which were just on the point of beginning.

As always, Lord Rawlinson's charming and sympathetic personality made
it easy to lay my whole case before him. He was good enough to say
that while he entirely agreed with me, he felt himself bound by the
terms of a clear order from the Commander-in-Chief. My last resource,
then, was to urge the argument that I felt perfectly sure that the
Commander-in-Chief when giving such an order could not have had
present to his mind the probability that compliance with it meant the
abandonment of the battle, and that, under the circumstances, it was
competent for the senior Commander on the spot to act in the light of
the situation as known to him, even to the extent of disobeying an

Rawlinson agreed that this view was correct provided the
Commander-in-Chief was not accessible for reference. Repeated attempts
to raise General Headquarters from Bussy eventually elicited the
information that the Field Marshal was then actually on his way from
Versailles, and expected to arrive in half an hour. Thereupon Rawlinson
promised a decision by 6.30, and we separated to rejoin our respective

In due course, the Army Commander telephoned that he had succeeded
in speaking to the Field Marshal, who explained that he had directed
the withdrawal of the Americans in deference to the wish of General
Pershing, but that, as matters stood, he now wished everything to go on
as originally planned. And so--the crisis passed as suddenly as it had
appeared. For, to me it had taken the form of a very serious crisis,
feeling confident as I did of the success of the forthcoming battle,
and of the far-reaching consequences which would be certain to follow.
It appeared to me at the time that great issues had hung for an hour or
so upon the chance of my being able to carry my point.

An interesting episode, intimately bound up with the story of this
battle, was the visit to the Corps area on July 2nd of the Prime
Minister of the Commonwealth, Mr. W. M. Hughes, and Sir Joseph Cook,
the Minister of the Navy. They arrived all unconscious of the impending
enterprise, but only by taking them fully into my confidence could I
justify my evident preoccupation with other business of first-class
importance. Most readily, however, did they accommodate themselves to
the exigencies of the situation.

Both Ministers accompanied me that afternoon on a tour of inspection
of the eight battalions who were then already parading in full battle
array, and on the point of moving off to the assembly positions from
which next day they would march into battle. The stirring addresses
delivered to the men by both Ministers did much to hearten and
stimulate them. As they were on their way to an Inter-Allied War
Council at Versailles, the personal contact of the Ministers with the
actual battle preparations had the subsequent result of focussing upon
the outcome of the battle a good deal of interest on the part of the
whole War Council.

The fixing of the exact moment for the opening of a battle has always
been the subject of much controversy. As in many other matters, it
becomes in the end the responsibility of one man to make the fatal
decision. The Australians always favoured the break of day, as this
gave them the protection of the hours of darkness for the assembly of
the assaulting troops in battle order in our front trenches. But there
must be at least sufficient light to see one's way for two hundred
yards or so, otherwise direction is lost and confusion ensues.

The season of the year, the presence and altitude of the moon, the
prospect of fog or ground mist, the state of the weather, and the
nature and condition of the ground are all factors which affect the
proper choice of the correct moment. To aid a decision, careful
observations were usually made on three or four mornings preceding the
chosen day. A new factor on this occasion was the strong appeal by the
Tanks for an extra five minutes of dawning light, to ensure a true line
of approach upon the allotted objective, whether a ruined village, or
a thicket, or a field work.

The decision actually given by me was that "Zero" would be ten minutes
past three, and every watch had been carefully synchronized to the
second, to ensure simultaneous action. A perfected modern battle plan
is like nothing so much as a score for an orchestral composition, where
the various arms and units are the instruments, and the tasks they
perform are their respective musical phrases. Every individual unit
must make its entry precisely at the proper moment, and play its phrase
in the general harmony. The whole programme is controlled by an exact
time-table, to which every infantryman, every heavy or light gun, every
mortar and machine gun, every tank and aeroplane must respond with
punctuality; otherwise there will be discords which will impair the
success of the operation, and increase the cost of it.

The morning of July 4th was ushered in with a heavy ground mist.
This impeded observation and made guidance difficult, but it greatly
enhanced the surprise. The unexpected occurrence of this fog lessened
the importance of the elaborate care which had been taken to introduce
into the Artillery barrage a due percentage of smoke shell, and to form
smoke screens by the use of mortars on the flanks of the attack. But
the fog largely accounted for the cheap price at which the victory was

No battle within my previous experience, not even Messines, passed off
so smoothly, so exactly to time-table, or was so free from any kind of
hitch. It was all over in ninety-three minutes. It was the perfection
of team work. It attained all its objectives; and it yielded great
results. The actual assault was delivered, from right to left, by two
battalions of the 6th Brigade, three battalions of the 4th Brigade,
and three battalions of the 11th Brigade. It was also part of the plan
that advantage was taken by a battalion of the 15th Brigade to snatch
from the enemy another slice of territory far away in the Ancre Valley,
opposite Dernancourt, and so, by extending the battle front, further to
distract him.

The attack was a complete surprise, and swept without check across the
whole of the doomed territory. Vaire and Hamel Woods fell to the 4th
Brigade, while the 11th Brigade, with its allotted Tanks, speedily
mastered Hamel Village itself. The selected objective line was reached
in the times prescribed for its various parts, and was speedily
consolidated. It gave us possession of the whole of the Hamel Valley,
and landed us on the forward or eastern slope of the last ridge, from
which the enemy had been able to overlook any of the country held by us.

Still more important results were that we gathered in no less than
1,500 prisoners, and killed and disabled at least as many more, besides
taking a great deal of booty, including two field guns, 26 mortars
and 171 machine guns--at a cost to us of less than 800 casualties
of all kinds, the great majority of whom were walking wounded. The
Tanks fulfilled every expectation, and the suitability of the tactics
employed was fully demonstrated. Of the 60 Tanks utilized, only 3 were
disabled, and even these 3 were taken back to their rallying points
under their own power the very next night. Their moral effect was also
proved, and, with the exception of a few enemy machine-gun teams,
who bravely stood their ground to the very last, most of the enemy
encountered by the Tanks readily surrendered.

Shortly after the battle, G.H.Q. paid the Australian Corps the
compliment of publishing to the whole British Army a General Staff
brochure,[10] containing the complete text of the orders, and a
full and detailed description of the whole of the battle plans and
preparations, with an official commentary upon them. The last paragraph
of this document, which follows, expresses tersely the conclusions
reached by our High Command:

  "81. The success of the attack was due:

  (a) To the care and skill as regards every detail with which the
      plan was drawn up by the Corps, Division, Brigade and Battalion
  (b) The excellent co-operation between the infantry, machine
      gunners, artillery, tanks and R.A.F.
  (c) The complete surprise of the enemy, resulting from the manner
      in which the operation had been kept secret up till zero hour.
  (d) The precautions which were taken and successfully carried out
      by which no warning was given to the enemy by any previous activity
      which was not normal.
  (e) The effective counter-battery work and accurate barrage.
  (f) The skill and dash with which the tanks were handled, and the
      care taken over details in bringing them up to the starting line.
  (g) Last, but most important of all, the skill, determination and
      fine fighting spirit of the infantry carrying out the attack."

Of the extent to which the tactical principles, and the methods of
preparation which had been employed at Hamel, came to be utilized by
other Corps in the later fighting of 1918 no reliable record is yet
available to me. But within the Corps itself this comparatively small
operation became the model for all enterprises of a similar character,
which it afterwards fell to the lot of the Corps to carry out.

The operation was a small one, however, only by contrast with the
events which followed, although not in comparison with some of the
major operations which had preceded it--by reference to the number
of troops engaged, although not to the extent of territory or booty
captured. Although only eight Battalions (or the equivalent of less
than one Division) were committed in the actual assault, the territory
recovered was more than four times that which was, in the pitched
battles of 1917, customarily allotted as an objective to a single
Division. The number of prisoners in relation to our own casualties was
also far higher than had been the experience of previous years. Both
of these new standards which had thus been set up may be regarded as
flowing directly from the employment of the Tanks.

Among other aspects of this battle which are worthy of mention is the
fact that it was the first occasion in the war that the American
troops fought in an offensive battle. The contingent of them who joined
us acquitted themselves most gallantly and were ever after received by
the Australians as blood brothers--a fraternity which operated to great
mutual advantage nearly three months later.

This was the first occasion, also, on which the experiment was made of
using aeroplanes for the purpose of carrying and delivering small-arms
ammunition. The "consolidation" of a newly-captured territory implies,
in its broadest sense, its organization for defence against recapture.
For such a purpose the most rapidly realizable expedient had been
found to be the placing of a predetermined number of machine guns in
previously chosen positions, arranged chequer-wise over the captured
ground. According to such a plan, suitable localities were selected by
an examination of the map and a specified number of Vickers machine-gun
crews were specially told off for the duty of making, during the
battle, by the most direct route, to the selected localities, there
promptly digging in, and preparing to deal with any attempt on the part
of the enemy to press a counter-attack.

The main difficulty affecting the use of machine guns is the
maintenance for them of a regular and adequate supply of ammunition.
Heretofore this function had to be performed by infantry ammunition
carrying parties. It required two men to carry one ammunition box,
holding a thousand rounds, which a machine gun in action could easily
expend in less than five minutes. Those carrying parties had to travel
probably not less than two to three miles in the double journey across
the open, exposed both to view and fire. Casualties among ammunition
carriers were always substantial.

It was therefore decided to attempt the distribution of this class of
ammunition by aeroplane. Most of the machines of the Corps Squadron
were fitted with bomb racks and releasing levers. It required no great
ingenuity to adapt this gear for the carrying by each plane of two
boxes of ammunition simultaneously, and to arrange for its release,
by hand lever, at the appropriate time. It remained to determine, by
experiment, the correct size and mode of attachment for a parachute for
each box of ammunition, so that the box would descend from the air
slowly, and reach the ground without severe impact.

It was Captain Wackett, of the Australian Flying Corps, who perfected
these ideas, and who trained the pilots to put them into practice. Each
machine-gun crew, upon reaching its appointed locality, spread upon
the ground a large V-shaped canvas (V representing the word "Vickers")
as an intimation to the air of their whereabouts, and that they needed
ammunition. After a very little training, the air-pilots were able
to drop this ammunition from a height of at least 1,000 feet to well
within 100 yards of the appointed spot. In this way, at least 100,000
rounds of ammunition were successfully distributed during this battle,
with obvious economy in lives and wounds. The method thus initiated
became general during later months.

The Corps also put into practice, on this occasion, a stratagem which
had frequently on a smaller scale been employed in connection with
trench raids. Our Artillery was supplied with many different types
of projectile, but among them were both gas shell and smoke shell.
The latter were designed to create a very palpable smoke cloud, to be
employed for the purpose of screening an assault, but were otherwise
harmless. The former burst, on the other hand, with very little
evolution of smoke, but with a pronounced and easily recognized smell,
and their gas was very deadly.

My practice was, therefore, during the ordinary harassing fire in
periods between offensive activities, always to fire both classes of
shell _together_, so that the enemy became accustomed to the belief
at the least that our smoke shells were invariably accompanied by gas
shell, even if he did not believe that it was the smoke shell which
alone gave out the warning smell. The effect upon him of either belief
was, however, the same; for it compelled him in any case to put on his
gas mask in order to protect himself from gas poisoning.

On the actual battle day, however, we fired smoke shell _only_, as we
dared not vitiate the air through which our own men would shortly pass.
But the enemy had no rapid means of becoming aware that we were firing
only harmless smoke shell. He would, therefore, promptly don his gas
mask, which would obscure his vision, hamper his freedom of action,
and reduce his powers of resistance. On July 4th both the 4th and 11th
Brigades accordingly took prisoner large numbers of men who were found
actually wearing their gas masks. The stratagem had worked out exactly
as planned.

The battle was over, and when the results were made known there
followed the inevitable flow of congratulatory messages from superiors,
and colleagues and friends, from all parts of the Front and from
England. The following telegrams received from the Commonwealth Prime
Minister were particularly gratifying:

  1. "On behalf of Prime Minister of Britain, and also of Prime
  Ministers of Canada, New Zealand and Newfoundland, attending
  VERSAILLES Council, I am commissioned to offer you our warmest
  congratulations upon brilliant success of Australian Forces under
  your command, and to say that the victory achieved by your Troops
  is worthy to rank with greatest achievements of Australian Armies."

  2. "My personal congratulations and those of the Government of
  Commonwealth on brilliant success of battle. Please convey to
  Officers and Men participating in attack warmest admiration of
  their valour and dash and manner in which they have maintained
  highest traditions of Australian Army. I am sure that achievement
  will have most considerable military and political effect upon
  Allies and neutrals, and will heighten _moral_ of all Imperial

  3. "In company with Mr. Lloyd George and General Rawlinson to-day
  saw several hundred of prisoners taken by Australian Troops in
  battle before Hamel. Rawlinson expressed to me the opinion that
  the operation was a brilliant piece of work. Please convey this to

The following message transmitted to me by the Commander of the Fourth
Army was also received from the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief:

  "Will you please convey to Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash and
  all Ranks under his command, including the Tanks and the detachment
  of 33rd American Division, my warm congratulations on the success
  which attended the operation carried out this morning, and on the
  skill and gallantry with which it was conducted.

  "D. HAIG."

A steady stream of visitors also set in, including numbers of General
Staff Officers, who had been sent down from other Corps and Armies to
gather information as to the methods employed. Everyone, of course,
recognized that there was only one War, and that it was to the mutual
benefit of all that all expedients calculated to accelerate the end of
it should become the common property of all. My Staff were accordingly
kept busy for many days with maps and diagrams explaining the lines on
which the enterprise had been carried out.

The most distinguished and most welcome of all our visitors, however,
was Monsieur Clemenceau, the veteran statesman of France, who, in spite
of the physical effort, immediately after the sitting of the Versailles
War Council had closed, made haste to travel to the Amiens area, and
to visit the Corps for the special purpose of thanking the troops. He
arrived on July 7th, and a large assemblage of Australian soldiers who
had participated in the battle, and who were resting from their labours
near General Maclagan's Headquarters at Bussy, were privileged to hear
him address them in English in the following terms:

  "I am glad to be able to speak at least this small amount of
  English, because it enables me to tell you what all French people
  think of you. They expected a great deal of you, because they have
  heard what you have accomplished in the development of your own
  country. I should not like to say that they are surprised that you
  have fulfilled their expectations. By that high standard they judge
  you, and admire you that you have reached it. We have all been
  fighting the same battle of freedom in these old battlegrounds.
  You have all heard the names of them in history. But it is a great
  wonder, too, in history that you should be here fighting on the old
  battlefields, which you never thought, perhaps, to see. The work of
  our fathers, which we wanted to hand down unharmed to our children,
  the Germans tried to take from us. They tried to rob us of all
  that is dearest in modern human society. But men were the same in
  Australia, England, France, Italy, and all countries proud of being
  the home of free people. That is what made you come; that is what
  made us greet you when you came. We knew you would fight a real
  fight, but we did not know that from the very beginning you would
  astonish the whole Continent with your valour. I have come here
  for the simple purpose of seeing the Australians and telling them
  this. I shall go back to-morrow and say to my countrymen: 'I have
  seen the Australians; I have looked into their eyes. I know that
  they, men who have fought great battles in the cause of freedom,
  will fight on alongside us, till the freedom for which we are all
  fighting is guaranteed for us and our children.'"

The French inhabitants of the Amiens district were also highly elated
at the victory. The city itself had been, for some weeks, completely
evacuated, by official order. Not only had it become the object of
nightly visitations by flights of Gothas; but also, somewhere in the
east and far beyond the reach of my longest range guns, the enemy had
succeeded in emplacing a cannon of exceptionally large calibre, range
and power, which took its daily toll of the buildings of this beautiful

The anniversary of the French national fête was approaching, and the
Prefect of the Department of the Somme, Monsieur Morain--appreciating
the significance of the Hamel victory as a definite step towards the
ultimate disengagement of the city from the German terror--determined
to make the celebration of this fête not only a compliment to the
Australian Corps, but also a proof of the unquenchable fortitude of the
people of his Department.

Accordingly, in the Hôtel de Ville, in the very heart of the deserted
city, amidst the crumbling ruins of its upper stories, and of the
devastation of the surrounding city blocks, he presided at a humble
but memorable repast, which had been spread in an undamaged apartment,
inviting to his board a bare twenty representatives of the French and
British Armies, and of the city of Amiens. While we toasted the King
and the Republic, and voiced the firm resolve of both Allies to see
the struggle through to the bitter end, the enemy shells were still
thundering overhead.

But other matters than rejoicings in a task thus happily accomplished
compelled my chief attention during the remaining days of this July. I
had to study and gauge accurately the tactical and strategical results
of the victory of Hamel, and to lose no time in using the advantage
gained. The moral results both on the enemy and on ourselves were far
more important, and deserve far more emphasis than do the material

It was, as I have said, the first offensive operation, on any
substantial scale, that had been fought by any of the Allies since the
previous autumn. Its effect was electric, and it stimulated many men
to the realization that the enemy was, after all, not invulnerable, in
spite of the formidable increase in his resources which he had brought
from Russia. It marked the termination, once and for all, of the purely
defensive attitude of the British front. It incited in many quarters an
examination of the possibilities of offensive action on similar lines
by similar means--a changed attitude of mind, which bore a rich harvest
only a very few weeks later.

But its effect on the enemy was even more startling. His whole front
from the Ancre to Villers-Bretonneux had become unstable, and was
reeling from the blow. It was only the consideration that I had still
to defend a ten-mile front, and had still only one Division in reserve
in case of emergency, that deterred me from embarking at once upon
another blow on an even larger scale. But I seized every occasion to
importune the Army Commander either to narrow my front, or to let the
First Division from Hazebrouck join my command, or both; but so far
without result.

[Illustration: MAP B.]

The only course that remained open to me was to initiate immediate
measures for taking the fullest advantage of the enemy's demoralization
by exploiting the success obtained to the utmost possible extent. No
later than on the afternoon of the battle of Hamel itself, orders were
issued to all three line Divisions to commence most vigorous offensive
patrolling all along the Corps front, with a view not merely to prevent
the enemy from re-establishing an organized defensive system, but
also ourselves to penetrate the enemy's ground by the establishment
therein of isolated posts, as a nucleus for subsequent more effective

Enterprise of such a nature appeals strongly to the sporting instinct
of the Australian soldier. Divisions, Brigades and Battalions vied
with each other in predatory expeditions, even in broad daylight, into
the enemy's ground, and a steady stream of prisoners and machine guns
flowed in. On the nights of July 5th and 6th, the Fifth Division, now
in the sector between the Ancre and the Somme, possessed themselves
with very little effort of a strip of some three hundred acres of
hostile positions, bringing our front line so near to Morlancourt as to
make that village no longer tenable by the enemy.

On the same nights, and again on July 8th and 9th, the Second and
Fourth Divisions advanced their lines by an average of two hundred to
three hundred yards along their respective fronts, and this advance
was, in the case of the Second Division, particularly valuable in
carrying our front line over the crest of the plateau of Hill 104, and
giving us clear and unbroken observation far into the enemy's country,
in the directions of Warfusee and Marcelcave.

It was a period replete with instances of individual enterprise and
daring adventure. One incident, characteristic of the varied efforts
of these days, was the capture, single-handed, and in broad daylight,
by Corporal W. Brown, V.C., of the 20th Battalion, Second Division, of
an officer and eleven men of the German Army, whom he stalked as they
lay skulking in a trench dug-out not far from his observation post, and
terrorized into submission by the threat of throwing a bomb at them.

But perhaps the best testimony of the successful activities of my
troops during this period, and of the serious impression which
they made upon the enemy, can be gathered by extracts from his own
documents, a number of which were captured during this and subsequent
fighting. Of these, the following, issued by the Second German Army
Headquarters (Von der Marwitz), are among the more interesting:

  "The enemy has in his minor enterprises again taken prisoner a
  complete front line battalion and part of a support battalion. The
  reason is our faulty leadership."

  "The enemy penetrated the forward zone of the 108th Division
  by means of large patrols at midnight, on July 8th, 1918,
  without any artillery preparation, and again on the same
  night at 11 p.m., with artillery preparation, astride of the
  Marcelcave--Villers-Bretonneux railway. He occupied the trenches
  where our most advanced outposts lay, and took the occupants,
  comprising fifteen men, prisoner. The larger part of the forward
  zone has been lost."

  "In the case of the present trench Division, it has often happened
  that _complete_ picquets have disappeared from the forward zone
  without a trace."

All the above refers to the period between July 4th and 12th. We read
again under date July 13th:

  "During the last few days the Australians have succeeded in
  penetrating, or taking prisoner, single posts or picquets. They
  have gradually--sometimes even in daylight--succeeded in getting
  possession of the majority of the forward zone of a whole Division."

  "Troops must fight. They must not give way at every opportunity and
  seek to avoid fighting, otherwise they will get the feeling that
  the enemy are superior to them."

[Illustration: Railway Gun, 11.2-inch Bore--captured near Rosières on
August 8th, 1918.]

[Illustration: German Depot of Stores--captured on August 8th, 1918.]

One last extract from these interesting papers:

  "The best way to make the enemy more careful in his attempt to
  drive us bit by bit out of the outpost line and forward zone is to
  do active reconnaissance and carry out patrol encounters oneself.
  In this respect absolutely nothing seems to have been done. If the
  enemy can succeed in scoring a success without any special support
  by artillery or assistance from special troops, we must be in a
  position to do the same."

Our line in front of Villers-Bretonneux had for months run very close
to the eastern outskirts of that town, a circumstance which cramped and
embarrassed our defence of it. The enemy could peer into its streets
and sweep them with machine guns. He had held in strength a locality
known as Monument Wood, the ruins of a once prosperous orchard, and his
possession of it had been a source of annoyance both to us and to the
French, for it lay just opposite the international boundary posts.

The time seemed opportune for a set-piece operation designed to
advance our line opposite the town by 1,000 yards, on a broad front,
to dislodge the enemy from Monument Wood, gain valuable elbow room,
and obtain mastery of the remainder of the plateau on which the town
was built. I had actually completed the draft of a plan for such an
operation, and had held a preliminary conference with my Staff to
discuss it, when it became apparent that the nightly encroachments
which the Second Division were effecting in this region would, in
the course of a few days, achieve the capture of the whole of this
territory without any special organized effort at all.

And so it proved; for before the middle of July, Rosenthal had
succeeded in possessing himself, by such a process of "peaceful
penetration," of the whole of the coveted area. It was a further
evidence of the serious demoralization which our aggressive attitude of
the preceding months had wrought among the German forces opposed to us.

The era of minor aggression by the Australian Corps was, however, about
to draw to a close, and the situation was rapidly beginning to shape
itself for greater events.


[10] Staff-Sheet No. 218: "Operations of the Australian Corps against
Hamel, etc.," published July, 1918.



The course of events during June and July pointed to the conclusions,
firstly, that the enemy contemplated no further offensive operations in
the Somme Valley, and, secondly, that the condition of the whole German
Second Army, astride of the Somme, offered every temptation to us to
seize the initiative against it.

So far as the Australian Corps was concerned, however, my total
frontage, which had been increased (as the result of our exploitation)
to over eleven miles, precluded the possibility, with only four
Divisions at my disposal, of maintaining, even if I could succeed in
initiating, an ambitious offensive. The time was nevertheless ripe for
action on a scale far more decisive than had become orthodox in the
British Army in the past. Efforts on that method had been confined to a
thrust, limited in point both of distance and of time, and followed by
a period of inaction; they had often given the enemy ample leisure to
recover, and to reorganize his order of battle.

To maintain an offensive, day after day, indefinitely, would require
sufficient resources, particularly in infantry, to allow Divisions to
be used alternatingly. Only in such a way, by having rested Divisions
always available to alternate with tired Divisions, could a continuous
pressure be maintained.

I took every opportunity of pressing these views upon the Army
Commander, and expressed the readiness of the Australian Corps to
undertake and maintain a long sustained offensive, provided that
arrangements could be made to shorten my frontage from a three to a
two-Division battle front, and to increase my resources, from the
present four, to five or even six Divisions. It was further essential
that in any advances attempted by us, other Corps must co-operate on
both flanks.

It would be bad tactics to drive into the enemy's front a salient
with a narrow base, for such a salient would make our situation worse
instead of better, affording to the enemy the opportunity of artillery
attack upon it from both its flanks as well as from its front. The
salient must therefore be broad based in relation to its depth, and the
base must ever widen as the head of the salient advances.

This principle implied that a large-scale operation of such a nature
must be begun on a whole Army front, and that, even at its inception,
at least three Corps must co-operate, to be aided by the entry of
additional Corps on the outer flanks as the central depth developed. In
other words, it was a project implying a large commitment of resources,
and the urgent question was whether the time was yet ripe for taking
the risks involved.

The matter, however, now became a subject at least worthy of practical
discussion, and, during the days which followed Hamel, the Staffs of
both the Corps and Army were kept busy with the investigation of data,
maps, and information, while the availability of additional resources
in guns, tanks and aeroplanes became the subject of anxious inquiry.

A circumstance which troubled me sorely was the fact that my Corps
stood on the flank of the British Army, and that the troops on my right
belonged to the French Army. The relations between the Australian
troops and the Tirailleurs and Zouaves of the 31st French Corps
(General Toulorge) had always been the very friendliest, and the joint
"international" posts had been the scenes of hearty fraternization and
of the evolution of a strange common vernacular.

This comradeship of "poilu" with "digger" did not, however, lessen
the difficulties incidental to the joint conduct of a major Operation
of War by two Corps of different nationalities, speaking different
languages, with diverse tactical conceptions, and, above all, of
substantially divergent temperaments. The French are irresistible in
attack as they are dogged in defence, but whether they will attack or
defend depends greatly on their temperament of the moment. In this
they are totally unlike the British or Australian soldier who will at
any time philosophically accept either rôle that may be prescribed for

In short, it was not possible to hope for an effective co-ordination
of effort, controlled particularly by the minute observance of a
time-table, on the part of the Australian and its adjacent French
Corps, and I felt quite unprepared to count upon it. It was for
this reason that I expressed to the Army Commander the hope that a
British Corps might be obtainable to operate on my right flank in any
undertaking that should be decided upon. Understanding that the greater
part of the Canadian Corps was then unemployed, resting in a back area,
I ventured to hope that this Corps might be made available, in the
event of a decision that the proposal should be proceeded with.

My hesitation to accept the French as colleagues in such a battle
was based not altogether on theoretical or sentimental grounds.
The steady progress in mopping up enemy territory to the east of
Villers-Bretonneux, which had been made by my south flank Division
(the Second) as the aftermath of Hamel, soon produced a contortion of
the Allied front line at this point which bade fair to prove just as
troublesome to me as had been the great re-entrant opposite Hamel,
which that battle had been specially undertaken to eliminate.

No persuasions on my part, or on that of my flank Division, could
induce the adjacent French Division to extend any co-operation in these
advances or to adopt any measures to flatten out the re-entrant which,
growing deeper every day, threatened to expose my right flank. I am
convinced that such hesitation was based upon no timidity, but was the
result wholly of an entirely different outlook and policy from those
which the Australian Corps was doing its best to interpret. But the
experience of it made the prospect of punctual co-operation on their
part in much more serious undertakings distinctly less encouraging.

The proposed offensive involved, therefore, far-reaching
redispositions, comprising a substantial displacement southwards of
the inter-Allied boundary, a lengthening by several miles of the whole
British Western front, and an entire rearrangement of the respective
fronts of the Third and Fourth British Armies. It is not surprising
that a decision was deferred, while the project was being critically
investigated from every point of view.

Then, suddenly, a new situation arose. On July 15th, the enemy opened
a fresh attack against the French in the south. The scale on which
he undertook it immediately made it patent to all students of the
situation that he was probably employing his whole remaining reserves
of fit, rested Divisions; that he meant this to be his decisive blow;
and that whether he gained a decision or not, it would be his last
effort on the grand scale.

It did not succeed; for just as he had once again reached the line
of the Marne and had on July 17th achieved his "furthest south" at
Château-Thierry, a beautifully timed counter-stroke by the French and
Americans upon the western face of the salient, extending from Soissons
to the Marne, resulted on July 18th in the capture by the Allies on
that day alone, of 15,000 prisoners and 200 guns.

It was the end of German offensive in the war. Their mobile reserves
were exhausted, and they were compelled slowly to recede from the
Château-Thierry salient. The appropriate moment, for which Foch and
Haig had doubtless been waiting for months, had at last arrived to
begin an Allied counter offensive, and it was only a question of
deciding at what point along the Franco-British front the effort should
be made, and on what date it should open.

Doubtless influenced by the reasons already discussed, the choice
fell upon that portion of the front of the Fourth Army which lay
south of the Somme; in other words upon the southern portion of the
Australian Corps front. The date remained undecided, but the requisite
redisposition of Armies and Corps was so extensive that no time was to
be lost in making a beginning.

It was on July 21st that General Rawlinson first called together the
Corps Commanders who were to be entrusted with this portentous task.
The strictest secrecy was enjoined, and never was a secret better kept;
with the exception of the Field Marshal and his Army Commanders, none
outside of the Fourth Army had any inkling of what was afoot until the
actual moment for action had arrived.

Yet an observant enemy agent, if any such there had been in the
vicinity, might well have drawn a shrewd conclusion that some
mischief was brewing, had he happened along the main street of the
prettily-situated village of Flexicourt, on the Somme, on that
bright summer afternoon, and had observed in front of a pretentious
white mansion, over which floated the black and red flag of an Army
Commander, a quite unusual procession of motor-cars, ostentatiously
flying the Canadian and Australian flags and the red-and-white pennants
of two other Corps Commanders.

There were present at that conference, General Currie, the Canadian,
General Butler, of the Third Corps, General Kavanagh, of the Cavalry
Corps, and myself, while senior representatives of the Tanks and Air
Force also attended. Rawlinson unfolded the outline of the whole Army
plan, and details were discussed at great length in the light of
the views held by each Corps Commander as to the tasks which he was
prepared to undertake with the resources in his hands or promised to

The conditions which I had sought in my previous negotiations with
the Army Commander were, I found, conceded to me almost to the full
extent. My battle front was to be reduced from eleven miles to a little
over 7,000 yards. It would, in fact, extend from the Somme, as the
northern, to the main Péronne railway, as the southern flank. And--what
was equally important, and profoundly welcome--the First Australian
Division was shortly to be relieved in Flanders, and would at last join
my Corps, thus for the first time in the war bringing all Australian
field units in France under one command.

The Canadians were to operate on my right, and further south again the
First French Army (Debenay) was to supply a Corps to form a defensive
flank for the Canadians. The Third British Corps was to carry out for
me a similar function on my northern flank. Thus, four Corps in line
were to operate, the two central Corps carrying out the main advance,
while the two outer flank Corps would be employed further to broaden
the base of the great salient which the operation would create.

The Cavalry Corps would appear in the battle area also, with all
preparations made for a rapid exploitation of any success achieved.
The utility of the Cavalry in modern war, at any rate in a European
theatre, has been the subject of endless controversy. It is one into
which I do not propose to enter. There is no doubt that, given suitable
ground and an absence of wire entanglements, Cavalry can move rapidly,
and undertake important turning or enveloping movements. Yet it has
been argued that the rarity of such suitable conditions negatives any
justification for superimposing so unwieldy a burden as a large body
of Cavalry--on the bare chance that it _might_ be useful--upon already
overpopulated areas, billets, watering places and roads.

I may, however, anticipate the event by saying that the First Cavalry
Brigade was duly allotted to me, and did its best to prove its utility;
but I am bound to say that the results achieved, in what proved to be
very unsuitable country beyond the range of the Infantry advance, did
not justify the effort expended either by this gallant Brigade or by
the other arms and services upon whom the very presence of the Cavalry
proved an added burden.

For the full understanding of subsequent developments both during and
after the battle it becomes of special importance to consider the
proposed rôle of the Third Corps in relation to my left flank. It is
to be remembered that the Fourth Army decided that the River Somme was
to be the tactical boundary between the two Northern Corps. It was not
competent for me to criticize this decision at the time, but I am free
now to say that I believed such a boundary to have been unsuitable, and
the event speedily proved that it was.

It is always, in my opinion, undesirable to select any bold natural
or artificial feature--such as a river, ravine, ridge, road or
railway--as a boundary. It creates, at once, a divided responsibility,
and necessitates between two independent commanders, and at a critical
point, a degree of effective co-operation which can rarely be hoped
for. It is much better boldly to place a unit, however large or small,
_astride_ of such a feature, so that both sides of it may come under
the control of one and the same Commander.

This was especially the case in this part of the Somme Valley which
is broad, and has an ill-defined central line, tortuous, and with
the slopes on either side tactically interdependent; but most of all
because, as I have already described, the high plateau on the north
completely overlooks the relatively lower flats on the south of the
river. The point I am trying to make should be borne in mind, for I
believe it has been fully borne out by subsequent events.

The decision standing, however, as it did, it fell to the task of
the Third Corps to make an assault (concurrently with that of the
Australian Corps south of the river) for the capture of the whole of
that reach of the river known as the Chipilly Bend, and of all the high
ground on the spur which that bend enfolds. The object was to deprive
the enemy of all ground from which he could look down upon my advancing
left flank, or from which he could bring rifle or artillery fire to
bear upon it.

The Third Corps was to operate on the front of one Division, the 58th,
which, pivoting its left upon the Corbie--Bray road, was to advance
its right--in sympathy with the advance of the left of the Australian
Corps--until it rested upon the river about one mile downstream from
Etinehem. It was a movement the success of which was rendered promising
by the nature of the ground and the disorganized condition of the enemy
between the Ancre and the Somme.

As regards my right flank, this was to rest as stated upon the main
railway. The Canadian Corps, of four Divisions, would take over from
the French a frontage of about 6,000 yards and deliver a thrust
parallel to and south of the railway, in the direction of Caix and
Beaucourt, and would aim at the seizure of the important Hill 102,
immediately to the west of the latter locality. At no time did any
question of the security of my right flank furnish me with any cause
for anxiety; the prowess of the Canadian Corps was well known to all
Australians, and I knew that, to use his own expressive vernacular, it
was General Currie's invariable habit to "deliver the goods."

The comprehensive project thus outlined at the conference of July 21st
involved, as a preliminary step, a far-reaching redisposition of very
large bodies of troops over a very wide front. With the readjustment of
the boundaries between the Third and Fourth British Armies we are not
particularly concerned, because this affected a region, north of the
Ancre, which lay well outside of the battle area. Nor did the internal
readjustment of the northern part of the Fourth Army front present
any difficulty, as it meant nothing more than a routine "relief" by
the 58th Division of the Fifth Australian Division which was at this
juncture holding that part of my Corps sector which lay between the
Somme and the Ancre.

But the southern half was a very different matter. The First French
Army was to give up to the British a section of about four miles,
extending from Villers-Bretonneux to Thennes. This was ultimately to
be taken over by the Canadian Corps as a battle front, but that Corps
still had two of its Divisions in the line in the neighbourhood of

Moreover, it was of the utmost importance to conceal from the enemy
until the last possible moment any change in our dispositions. This
meant concealing them from our own troops also, because the loss by us
of a single talkative prisoner would have been sufficient to disclose
to the enemy at least the suspicion, if not the certainty, that an
attack was in preparation.

After examining the problem and discussing several alternative
solutions, it was ultimately decided at this conference that, five
or six days before the date fixed for the attack, the French would
be relieved in this sector by a Division, not of Canadians, but of
Australians; that under cover of and behind this Australian Division,
the Canadian Corps would come in from the north, and would proceed
to carry out its battle preparations; and finally that the actual
appearance of Canadian troops in the front line would not ensue until
three days before the battle.

During the preceding two days, the Australian troops would be gradually
withdrawn from the sector, leaving only one Brigade in occupation of
the line, to be backed up by the incoming Canadians in the unexpected
contingency of an attack by the enemy. This last Brigade would quietly
melt away, leaving the Canadians in full possession of the field.

It was hoped that, during the days of the temporary Australian
occupation of the sector, nothing would happen which might disclose
to the enemy that the French had left it; and even if we were to have
the misfortune to lose from this sector any Australian prisoners to
the enemy, it was further hoped that, if kept in total ignorance of
the inflow of Canadians, such prisoners would be unable to make any
embarrassing disclosures. The _dénouement_, which will be told later,
showed that this judgment of possibilities was a shrewd one, and that
such precautions were not taken in vain.

At this period of the war, large numbers of Americans had already
arrived in France, but only few of them were yet ready to take their
places in the line of battle. The time had not yet arrived, therefore,
when, by taking over large sections of the Western front they could
help to shorten the French and British frontages. The British front
was, therefore, still so extended that the mobile reserve Divisions at
the disposal of the Field Marshal were few.

This consideration made the contemplated reliefs and interchanges
of Corps and Divisions, and their transference from one part of our
front to another a matter of great complexity, and one which required
time to execute. Each stage of the process was contingent upon the
due completion of a previous stage. It is, moreover, a process which
cannot be unduly hastened, without serious discomfort and fatigue to
the troops and animals concerned.

Troops destined for battle must be kept in the highest physical
condition. This means good feeding, comfortable housing, and adequate
rest. A couple of weary days and sleepless nights spent in crowded
railway trains, with cold food and little exercise, are sufficient to
play havoc with the fighting trim of even a crack battalion. So, the
daily stages of the journey must be short, and comfortable billets must
be in readiness for each night's halt. The day's supplies must arrive
punctually and at the right railhead, to ensure hot, well-cooked meals.

With the very limited number of serviceable railway lines which
remained available behind the British front--and with the congestion
of traffic resulting from the daily transportation of many thousands
of tons of artillery ammunition and other war stores--it was not
surprising that as the result of the deliberations of the conference
it was resolved to advise the Commander-in-Chief that it would take
not less than five days to rearrange our order of battle on the lines
decided upon, and another five days, after Corps and Divisions had
taken over their battle fronts, to enable them to complete their

Thus, the Fourth Army could be ready at ten days' notice, and the
conference broke up, pledged to secrecy and complete inaction, until
formal approval had been given to the proposals and a date fixed for
their realization.

The remainder of July passed with no very startling occurrences. In the
south the German withdrawal from the Soissons salient and the Marne
continued steadily, with the French and Americans on their heels; but
it was a methodical retreat, which would bring about a substantial
shortening of the German line, and so release Divisions to rest and
refit, which might conceivably become available for a fresh assault

But there was still no sign of any such design upon that always tender
spot, the Allied junction at Villers-Bretonneux. On the contrary, my
second Division still continued to make free with the enemy's advanced
patrols, and in a very brilliant little infantry operation by the 7th
Brigade captured the "Mound," a long spoilbank beside the railway at a
point about a mile east of the town, which dominated the landscape in
every direction. The ardour of his troops was only enhanced when they
heard that General Rosenthal himself, while reconnoitring from the
Mound, had been sniped at and had received a nasty wound in the arm.

The enemy attempted nothing in the way of infantry retaliation. But
whenever he had been thoroughly angered, he treated my front to a
liberal drenching of mustard gas, fired by his artillery. His supplies
of mustard gas shell seemed inexhaustible, and he would frequently
expend as many as 10,000 of them in a single night upon the half-ruined
town of Villers-Bretonneux or on the Bois l'Abbé and other woods which
he suspected were sheltering my reserve infantry.

These gas attacks were annoying and troublesome, in the extreme. During
the actual bombardments, troops wore their gas masks as a matter of
course, but doffed them when the characteristic smell of the gas
had disappeared. But it was warm weather, and as the sun rose, the
poisonous liquid, which had spattered the ground over immense areas,
would volatilize, and rise in sufficient volume still to attack all
whose business took them to and fro across this ground. In this way
hundreds of our men became incapacitated; although there were a few
serious cases, most of the men would be fit to rejoin in two or three
weeks. But this form of attack, and the constant dread of it, made life
in the forward areas anything but endurable.

I was beset by quite another trepidation also. Prisoners captured
during the German withdrawal from the Marne, which was then in
progress, told tales of contemplated withdrawals on other fronts, and
some even asserted that a withdrawal opposite my own front was being
talked of. Judged by subsequent events, it is more than probable that
these stories were stimulated by the many articles which were at
that time appearing in the German newspapers from the pens of press
strategists, who, in order to allay public anxiety, were representing
these withdrawals as deliberate, and as a masterpiece of strategy,
compelling the Allies to a costly pursuit over difficult and worthless

Opposite Albert, signs that such a withdrawal was actually in progress
also began to appear, although it subsequently transpired that, in its
early stages, this procedure was merely prompted by a purely local
consideration, namely, the desire of the enemy to improve his tactical
position by abandoning the outposts, which he had been maintaining in
the valley of the Ancre, and transferring them to the higher and better
ground on the east of that river.

It was only natural that those of us who knew of the impending attack,
and of the immense effort which its preparation would involve, felt
nervous lest the enemy might forestall us by withdrawing his whole
line to some methodically prepared position of defence in the rear,
just as he had done once before in 1917 on so large a scale in the
Bapaume region. It would probably have been a sound measure of
military policy, but it would assuredly, at that juncture, have had
as disastrous an effect upon the _moral_ of the German people as his
enforced withdrawal, which was soon to begin, actually produced not
long after.

The order to prepare the attack, and fixing the date of it for August
8th, came in the closing days of July, and at once all was bustle and
excitement in the Australian Corps. Commanders, Staff Officers, and
Intelligence Service, the Artillery, the Corps Flying Squadron, the
map and photography sections spent busy days in reconnaissance, and
toilsome nights in office work. The vast extent of the detailed work
involved, particularly upon the administrative services, can only be
appreciated by a study of the plan for the battle, which it fell to my
lot, as Corps Commander, first to formulate, and then to expound to a
series of conferences which were held at Bertangles on July 30th, and
on August 2nd and 4th.

It is, therefore, perhaps appropriate that I should now attempt to
repeat, in non-technical language, an exposition of the outlines of
that plan.



My plan for the impending battle involved the employment of four
Divisions in the actual assault, with one Division in reserve. The
Reserve Division was to be available for use in one of two ways; either
as a reserve of fresh troops to exploit any successes gained upon the
first day, or else to take over and hold defensively the ground won, if
the assaulting Divisions should have become too exhausted to be relied
upon for successful resistance to a counter-attack in force.

The frontage allotted to the Corps was 7,000 yards, and this extent of
front accommodated itself naturally to the employment of two first-line
Divisions, each on a 3,500 yard front, each Division having two
Brigades in the front line, with one Brigade in reserve.

As four Divisions were available to me for immediate use in the
battle, I decided to undertake, for the first time in the war, on
so comprehensive a scale, the tactical expedient of a "leapfrog" by
Divisions over each other.

This term had, long before, passed into the homely phraseology of the
war, in order to describe a procedure by which one body of troops,
having reached its objective, was there halted, as at a completed task,
while a second body of troops, of similar order of importance, but
under an entirely separate Commander, advanced over the ground won,
reached the foremost battle line, took over the tactical responsibility
for the fighting front, and after a prescribed interval of time
continued the advance to a further and more distant objective.

This conception of an advance by a process of "leapfrog" had been
evolved early in 1917 in connection with a method of assault on
successive lines of trenches. It was intended at the outset to be
applied only to very small bodies of infantry, such as platoons. A
normal battle plan for a company of infantry of four platoons was for
the first two platoons to capture and hold the front line trench,
while the next two following platoons would leap over this trench and
over the troops who had gained it, and then pass beyond to the capture
of the second, or support trench. The method was used, for the first
time, on such a modest scale, at the battle of Messines, in June, 1917,
and later on in the same year was adopted for bodies as large even
as Battalions, in the fighting for the Broodseinde and Passchendaele

But on no previous occasion had such a principle been applied to whole
Divisions. It is true that at the battle of Messines, the Fourth
Australian Division passed through the New Zealand Division after the
latter had completed the capture of the main Messines ridge, but this
was really exploitation, undertaken in order to take advantage of the
temporary confusion of the enemy, and for the purpose of gaining ground
upon the eastern slopes of the captured ridge. It was not a movement
which was really part of the main assault, and it was confined to a
single Division.

On the present occasion my purpose was to carry out a clear and
definite process of "leapfrogging," not only simultaneously by two
Divisions side by side, but also as an essential part of the time-table
programme for the main battle, and before the exploitation stage of
the fighting was timed to be reached. It was, undeniably, a daring
proposal, involving very definite risks, enormously increasing the
labour of preparation and the mass of detailed precautions which had to
be undertaken in order to obviate the possibility of great confusion.

The preparations necessary for a single Division proposing to advance
alone, to a prescribed distance, over country much of which was usually
visible to us from our front line, are sufficiently complex, relating
as they do, not only to the establishment of numerous protected
headquarters for Brigades and Battalions, of miles upon miles of buried
and ground cables, of dumps of all kinds of supplies, and of dressing
stations and medical aid posts; but also to the disposition, in
concealed positions, of all the assaulting units, down to the smallest
of them, of Infantry Engineers and Pioneers. All these preparations
assume a tenfold complexity when a second Division has to make
arrangements exactly similar in character, variety and extent, using
exactly the same territory for the purpose and at the same time, and
planning to advance over more distant country, entirely beyond visual
range and preliminary reconnaissance.

The project also involved a much greater crowding of troops into
the areas immediately behind our line of departure, and, therefore,
enormously increased the risk of premature detection by the enemy,
both from ground and from air observation, of unusual movement and of
other symptoms which presaged the possibility of an attack by us. The
plan also necessitated the closest possible co-ordination of effort,
and mutual sympathy and understanding, between the Commanders and
Staffs of the twin Divisions having a common jurisdiction over one
and the same area of preparation, and one and the same battle front.
This was a degree of co-operation which could not have been looked
for unless the personnel concerned had already established, from long
and close association with each other, the most cordial personal
relations. And dominating all other difficulties were those involved
in the proposal to execute this difficult and untried operation of a
Divisional leapfrog, not singly but in a duplex manner, necessitating
the assurance of exactly similar simultaneous action, similarly timed
in every stage, both before and during battle, by each of two separate
pairs of Divisions.

These threatening difficulties were surely formidable enough, but I
knew that I could rely upon the goodwill of the Divisions towards each
other, and upon the loyal support of them all. This seemed to me to
justify the attempt, and to minimize the risks; having regard above all
else to the results which I stood to gain if the operation could be
executed as planned.

On no previous occasion in the war had an attempt ever been made to
effect a penetration into the enemy's defences at the first blow, and
on the first day, greater than a mile or two. Rarely had any previous
set-piece attack succeeded in reaching the enemy's line of field-guns.
The result had been that the bulk of his Artillery had been withdrawn
at his leisure, and his losses had been confined to a few hundred acres
of shattered territory. But the task I had set myself was not only
to reach, at the first onslaught, the whole of the enemy's Artillery
positions, but greatly to overrun them with a view to obliterating, by
destruction or capture, the whole of his defensive organizations and
the whole of the fighting resources which they contained, along the
full extent of my Corps front.

To achieve this object I prepared my plans upon the basis of a total
advance, on the first day, of not less than 9,000 yards. This was to be
divided into three separate stages, as follows:

  Phase A--Set-piece attack with barrage,    3,000 yards.
  Phase B--Open-warfare advance,             4,500   "
  Phase C--Exploitation,                     1,500   "
         Total distance to final objective,  9,000 yards.

The opening phase involved no novel or unusual features so far as
the infantry were concerned, and was conceived on lines with which
the fighting of 1917 had familiarized me, modified further by the
accumulated experience gained from earlier mistakes in the technical
details of such an enterprise. The recent battle of Hamel became
the model for this phase, the conditions of that battle being now
reproduced on a much enlarged scale.

But there was one very important feature which distinguished the
present undertaking from the battles of Messines and Broodseinde, and
that was in regard to the frontage allotted for attack to a single
Division. At Messines, the Divisional battle front was 2,000 yards;
in the third battle of Ypres it differed but little from the same
standard. For the present battle, I adopted a battle front of two miles
for each assaulting Division, or a mile for each of the four assaulting

This innovation seemed to me to be justified by four principal
factors. The first of these was that the weather, which was dry, and
the state of the ground, which was hard, made the "going" easy and the
stress upon the infantry comparatively light. Next, the condition of
the enemy's defensive works was undeveloped and stagnant, as clearly
disclosed by the air photographs which the Corps Air Squadron produced
in great numbers on every fine day. No doubt this was due to the
encroachments we had made on his forward works during the fighting
at Hamel and in the remaining weeks of July. Thirdly, the powerful
assistance anticipated from a contingent of four Battalions of Tanks
which General Rawlinson had arranged to place under my orders led me
to estimate that I might greatly reduce the number of men per yard of
front. Lastly, the plan was justified by the known distribution of the
enemy's infantry and guns along the frontage under attack. For all
these reasons, I felt prepared to impose on the infantry a task which,
computed solely upon the factor of frontage, was more than twice that
demanded by me on any previous occasion.

At the same time, so extended a frontage involved the employment of a
much higher ratio of barrage artillery to the number of battalions of
Infantry actually engaged. Success depended more upon the efficiency of
the fire power of the barrage than upon any other factor, and I could
not afford to incur any risk by weakening the density of the barrage.
For this reason, I adhered to the standard which previous experience
of several major battles and many minor raids had shown to be adequate
for covering the assaulting infantry, and for keeping down the enemy's
fire. This standard never fluctuated widely from one field-gun per
twenty yards of front, and involved the employment, on this occasion,
of some 432 field-guns in the barrage alone. This result could not have
been achieved if the Fourth Army authorities had not seen their way to
place at my disposal five additional Brigades of Field Artillery over
and above the thirteen Australian Brigades which formed a permanent
part of the whole Artillery of the Corps.

Phase A, as already stated, involved a penetration of 3,000 yards,
and the objective line for this phase, which came to be known as the
"green" line (from the colour employed to delineate it upon all the
fighting maps propounded by the Corps), was chosen, after an exhaustive
study of all aeroplane photographs, and of the results of numerous
observations, by many diverse means, of the locations of the enemy's
Artillery, so as to make certain that during this phase the whole mass
of the enemy's forward Artillery would be overrun, and captured or put
out of action.

The green line was, in fact, located along the crest of the spur
running north-easterly from Lamotte-en-Santerre in the direction of
Cerisy-Gailly, with the object of carrying the battle well to the east
of the Cerisy valley, in which large numbers of the enemy's guns had
been definitely located. This would give us, by the capture of this
valley, suitable concealed positions in which the Infantry destined
for Phase B could rest for a short "breather;" and would land the
Infantry of the original assault in a position from which they could
detect and forestall any attempt on the part of the enemy to launch a
counter-attack before the time for the opening of Phase B had arrived.

The task of executing Phase A of the battle fell to the Second and
Third Australian Divisions, in that order from south to north, the
southern flank of the Second Division resting upon the main railway
line from Amiens to Péronne, and being there in contact with the
Canadian Corps, under General Currie. The northern flank of the Third
Division rested on the River Somme, and was there in contact with the
Third British Corps under General Butler, while the inter-divisional
boundary was at the southern edge of the Bois-d'Accroche.

These two Divisions were the line Divisions during the period
immediately preceding the battle, and had been holding the line each
with two Brigades in line and one Brigade in support. Three days prior
to the battle, however, it was arranged that each Division should hold
its front with only one Brigade, thereby making available two Brigades
each for the actual carrying out of Phase A of the attack. These
assaulting Brigades were the 7th, 5th, 9th and 11th, in that order from
south to north, each Brigade having its due allotment of Tanks and
machine guns, etc.

The total estimated time for the completion of Phase A was to be 143
minutes after the opening of the barrage at "zero" hour; and there was
then to be a pause of 100 minutes to allow time for the advance and
deployment into battle order of the succeeding two Divisions, who were
to carry out the process of "leapfrogging" and to execute Phases B and
C of the battle.

The planning of Phase B, or the advance from the "green" to the "red"
line, involved a totally different tactical conception and the adoption
of a type of warfare which had almost entirely disappeared from the
Western theatre of war since those far-off days in the late autumn of
1914, when the German Army first dug itself in, in France and Belgium,
and committed both combatants to the prolonged agony of over three
years of stationary warfare. I allude to the moving battle, or as it
is called in text-book language, "open warfare;" a type of fighting in
which few of the British Forces formed since the original Expeditionary
Force had any experience except on the manoeuvre ground under peace
conditions--a disability which applied equally to the Australian
troops. Confident, however, in their adaptability and in their power
of initiative under novel conditions, I did not hesitate to prescribe,
for this second phase of the battle, the adoption of the principles and
methods of open warfare.

In two very important respects in particular, this type of fighting
involved conditions to which the troops had not been accustomed,
and under which they had no previous experience in battle. In
trench warfare, and in a deliberate attack on entrenched defences,
the positions of all headquarters, medical aid posts, supply dumps
and signal stations remained fixed and immovable. The whole of the
internal communications by telegraph and telephone could, therefore,
be completely installed beforehand, down to the last detail, and the
transmission of all messages, reports, orders and instructions, during
the course of the battle, was rapid and assured. But in a moving
battle no such comprehensive or stable signalling arrangements are
possible, and reliance must be placed upon the much slower and much
more uncertain methods of transmission by flag and lamp signalling, by
dispatch riders, pigeons and runners.

Divisional Headquarters would, therefore, almost as soon as the battle
commenced, fall out of touch with Brigades, and they in turn with their
Battalions; information as to the actual situation at the fighting
front would travel slowly, and would reach those responsible for making
consequential decisions often long after an entire alteration in the
situation had removed the need for action. Thus, a greatly enhanced
responsibility would come to be imposed upon subordinate leaders to
decide for themselves, without waiting for guidance or orders from
higher authority, and to grasp the initiative by taking all possible
action on the spot in the light of the circumstances and situation of
the moment.

Again, the nature of the Artillery action is, in the moving battle,
fundamentally different from that which prevails during trench warfare.
To begin with, only that portion of the Artillery which is in the
strictest sense mobile can participate to any extent in open warfare.
The employment of Artillery is, therefore, confined to a few and to
the smaller natures of Ordnance, namely, the 18-pounder field-gun, the
4½-inch field howitzer and the 60-pounder, which are all horse drawn
and which are capable of being moved off the roads and across all but
the most broken country. Heavier guns, from 6-inch upwards, are in
practice confined to roads, and are too slow and cumbersome to keep
pace with the Infantry. The Artillery fire action is also intrinsically
different, because the guns can be sighted directly upon their targets,
while in trench warfare they are always laid by indirect methods, with
the use of the map and compass, and without observation, at any rate by
the crew of the gun, of the objects fired at.

The decision which I had to take of carrying out the second phase of
this great battle on the principles of open warfare was, therefore,
one which also involved a certain element of risk. But it was a risk
which I felt justified in taking, in spite of the fact that the German
High Command had more than once expressed itself in contemptuous
terms of the capacity of any British troops successfully to undertake
any operation of open warfare. My justification lay primarily in my
confidence in the ability of the subordinate commanders and troops to
work satisfactorily under these novel conditions--a confidence which
the event abundantly justified. But I was placed in the position of
having either to accept this risk, or else abandon altogether the
project of a quite unprecedented penetration of enemy country to be
completed on the first day. It would have been clearly impossible to
continue the advance beyond the green line without an interval of at
least forty-eight hours, which would have been necessary to enable the
Artillery to be redisposed for barrage fire in forward positions and
provided with the necessary supplies of ammunition for such a purpose.

The Divisions which were told off to carry out the "leapfrog"
enterprise and to execute Phase B of the battle were the Fifth
Australian Division on the south and the Fourth Australian Division on
the north, the outer flanks of the attack remaining as before, _i.e._,
the Péronne Railway on the south and the River Somme on the north.
Each of these Divisions was directed to deploy, on its own frontage,
two Infantry Brigades. Its third Brigade was to be kept intact and to
advance during Phase B at some distance behind, as a support to the
fighting line, and to be employed in the subsequent phase, if it were
found that Phase B could be completed without calling upon this spare
Brigade. The actual dispositions of the Brigades finally proposed by
the respective Divisional Commanders and approved by me brought about
the arrangement that the four first-line mobile Infantry Brigades were
successively, from south to north, the 15th, 8th, 12th and 4th, while
the 14th and 1st Brigades followed as supports in a second line.

To each of these Infantry Brigades I allotted a Brigade of Field
Artillery, to be employed under the direct orders of the Infantry
Brigade Commander, and, in addition, three Artillery Brigades as
well as one Battery of 60-pounders, to each Divisional Commander. As
my resources in Artillery were not unlimited, the twelve Artillery
Brigades, so disposed of, were necessarily drawn from the original
eighteen Brigades which were to fire the covering Artillery barrage
for Phase A of the battle. The orders to that portion of the Field
Artillery which was to become mobile in pursuance of this plan,
accordingly, were that immediately upon the completion of their
original tasks, by the capture of the green line, they were to "pull
out of the barrage."

This meant, in effect, that all the teams, limbers, battery wagons,
and ammunition wagons of these twelve Brigades, waiting in their wagon
lines far in rear, fully harnessed up and hooked in at the opening of
the battle, had to advance during the progress of the first phase,
so as to reach their guns just at the right time, but no earlier,
to enable these guns to be limbered up, and the batteries to become
completely mobile in order to join and advance with the Infantry of the
second phase.

This was an operation which required the greatest nicety in timing,
and the greatest accuracy in execution. No Australian Artillery had
ever previously undertaken such an operation, except perhaps on the
manoeuvre ground, and then only on the very limited scale of a Brigade
or two at a time. That this rapid transition from the completely
stationary to the completely mobile battle was carried out, during the
very crisis of a great engagement, without the slightest hitch, and
with only the trifling loss of two or three gun horse teams from shell
fire, reflects the very highest credit upon every officer and man of
the Australian Field Artillery.

The open warfare Infantry Brigades were also to be provided, out of
their own divisional resources, each with a Company of Engineers,
a Company of Machine Guns, a Field Ambulance, and a detachment of
Pioneers, so that, in the most complete sense, they became a Brigade
Group of all arms, capable of dealing, out of their own resources
and on their own ground, with any situation that might arise during
their advance of nearly three miles from the green to the red line. A
detachment of nine tanks completed the fighting equipment of each of
the four front line Brigades destined to capture the red line.

I must now briefly describe the nature of Phase C, the third and last
stage in this ambitious and complex battle programme. This phase was
to consist of "exploitation," which implies that it was a provisional
preparation, which was to be carried out only if complete success
attended the two preceding phases. The objective of Phase C was the
"blue" line, which I had located about one mile to the east of the red
line, along a system of old French trenches extending from the river at
a point near Méricourt, and running southerly to the railway at a point
a little to the south-east of Harbonnières. This line gave promise of
furnishing a good defensive position in which to deal with any possible
counter-attack. It also gave a good line of departure for subsequent
operations, and provided ideal artillery positions in a series of
valleys, running parallel and a little to the west of the line itself.

The troops earmarked for this Exploitation Phase were the two second
line Brigades of the two Divisions which were to capture the red line,
namely, the 14th and 1st Brigades, and the orders to the Divisional
Commanders were that if the red line was reached without mishap,
without undue loss of time, and without involving the Reserve Brigades,
but not otherwise, these Reserve Brigades were to push on with the
utmost determination to secure and hold the blue line until such time
as they could be reinforced.

Each of these exploitation Brigades was equipped similarly to the red
line Brigades in all respects except that they were provided with
a special contingent of 18 Mark V. (Star) Tanks of the very latest
design. These differed from the Mark V. Tank employed at Hamel and in
the other stages of the present operation, in that they were longer
and had sufficient internal space to carry, as passengers, over and
above their own crews, two complete infantry Lewis gun detachments
each. It was expected that this infantry fire power, added to the fire
power from the machine guns carried by these 36 Tanks themselves and
operated by the Tank crews, would go far to compensate for the somewhat
attenuated line of probably tired Infantry spread in two Brigades over
an ultimate frontage of over 10,000 yards.

No definite time-table was laid down for the closing phases of the
battle, except for the regulation of the times when our Heavy Artillery
should "lift off" designated targets--such as villages, farms, and
known gun positions--and lengthen its range so as not to obstruct the
further advance of our own Infantry. But it was estimated that, from
the opening of the battle, the green line would be reached in two and
a half hours, the red line in six hours, and the blue line in eight
hours. As the battle was to open at the first streak of dawn, it would,
if all went well, be completed according to plan by about midday.

In every battle plan, whether great or small, it is necessary first of
all to map out the whole of the intended action of the Infantry, at any
rate on the general lines indicated above. When that has been done the
next step is to work backwards, and to test the feasibility of each
body of infantry being able to reach its allotted point of departure,
punctually, without undue stress on the troops, and without crossing
or impeding the line of movement of any other body of infantry. It is
often necessary to test minutely, by reference to calculations of time
and space, more than one alternative plan for marshalling the Infantry
prior to battle, and for the successive movements, day by day, and from
point to point, of every battalion engaged.

The present case was no exception, and, indeed, presented quite special
difficulties. The whole of the area for a depth of many thousands of
yards behind our then front line was open rolling country, devoid of
any cover, and (except in the actual valley of the Somme) with every
village, hamlet, farmhouse, factory and wood obliterated. The plan
involved the assembly, in this confined area, fully exposed by day to
the view of any inquisitive enemy aircraft, of no less than 45 Infantry
Battalions, with all their paraphernalia of war; not to speak of our
600 guns of all calibres, their wagon lines, horse lines and motor
parks, together with Engineers, Pioneers, Tanks, Medical and Supply
Units amounting to tens of thousands of men and animals.

A new factor which, however, ultimately controlled the final decision
which I had to make as to the nature of the dispositions prior to
battle, lay in the consideration of the maximum distances which would
have to be covered by the foot soldiers in such a far-flung battle. I
had little difficulty in coming to the conclusion that the obvious and
normal arrangement was on this occasion a totally wrong arrangement.
If the assaulting Brigades had been arranged, from front to rear, in
their assembly areas prior to battle, in the same order as that in
which they would have to come into action, this would have involved
that the individual man, who was to be required to march and fight his
way furthest into enemy country, and, therefore, was to be the last to
enter the fight, would also be called upon to march furthest from his
rearmost position of assembly before even reaching the battle zone. The
maximum distance to be traversed on the day of battle by infantry would
have amounted, according to such a plan, to over ten miles. While this
is an easy day's march on a good road, under tranquil conditions, it
would have been an altogether unreasonable demand upon any infantryman
during the stress and nervous excitement of battle. It would have been
courting a breakdown from over-fatigue, among the very troops upon whom
I had to rely most to defend the captured territory against any serious
enemy reaction.

I therefore adopted the not very obvious course of completely reversing
the normal procedure, and of disposing the Brigades in depth, from
front to rear, in exactly the _reverse_ of the order in which, in point
of time, they would enter the battle.

The following represents, diagrammatically, the disposition of all
twelve Brigades after having been fully _deployed_ in the actual course
of the battle:

  ^               (4th Division)      |           (5th Division)
  | Direction     4    --     12      |           8    --     15
  | of        North     1         Inter-               14          South
  | enemy.        (3rd Division)  Divisional      (2nd Division)
  |              11    --      9  Boundary.       5    --      7
  |                                  |                   Our front line
  |                                  |                   before battle
  |          10 (in our trenches)    |        6 (in our trenches)

The next diagram shows how the twelve Brigades were disposed while
Phase A of the battle was in progress, and before the second Phase had

                  (3rd Division)      |           (2nd Division)
                 11    --      9      |           5    --      7
                                  Inter-                 Our front line
                                  Boundary.              before battle
             10 (in our trenches)    |        6 (in our trenches)
                  (4th Division)     |            (5th Division)
                  4    --     12     |            8    --     15
                        1            |                 14

But the following diagram represents, in a similar manner, the order
of disposition of the same Brigades, in the territory under our own
occupation, immediately _prior_ to the battle:

  ^               (3rd Division)      |           (2nd Division)
  |                                   |                   Our front line
  | Direction                     Inter-                  before battle
  | of       10 (in our trenches) Divisional    6 (in our trenches)
  | enemy.        (4th Division)  Boundary.       (5th Division)
  |               4    --     12      |           8    --     15
  |           North     1             |                14          South
  |                (3rd Division)     |           (2nd Division)
  |              11    --      9      |           5    --      7

A little consideration will show that this apparently paradoxical
procedure brought about the desired result of more nearly equalizing
the stress upon the whole of the Infantry engaged, in point, at least,
of the maximum distance to be traversed in the day's operations. But it
produced something else, also, of much greater concern, which was that
the scheme involved a leapfrogging of Divisions during the approach
march into the battle, in addition to a second leapfrogging, to which
I was already committed, to occur at a later stage during the battle

Thus I was confronted with the dilemma that the only scheme of
disposition which promised success for the subsequent battle was
also that scheme which made the greatest possible demands upon the
intelligence of the troops and the sympathetic, loyal and efficient
co-operation of my own Corps Staff, and those of the Commanders acting
under me. Influenced once again by the confidence which I felt in my
whole command, I did not hesitate to increase the complexity of the
plans for the Infantry action by calling upon the four Divisions to
execute a manoeuvre which is unique in the history of war, namely, a
"double leapfrog," simultaneously carried out by two separate pairs of
Divisions, operating side by side. The first leap was to take place
during the approach to the battle, the second during the progress of
the battle itself.

This expedient, which I finally decided to adopt, in spite of the
dangers involved in its complexity and in the absence of any precedent,
was, however, as logical analysis and the event itself proved, the very
keynote of the success of the entire project. The whole plan, thanks to
an intelligent interpretation by all Commanders and Staffs concerned,
worked like a well-oiled machine, with smoothness, precision and
punctuality, and achieved to the fullest extent the advantages aimed at.

On the one hand, the stress upon the troops was reduced to a minimum.
By the reduction of physical fatigue, it conserved the energies
of whole Divisions in a manner which permitted of their speedy
re-employment in subsequent decisive operations. And on the other
hand, by the great depth of penetration which it rendered possible, it
ensured a victory which amounted to so crushing a blow to the enemy
that its momentum hurled him into a retrograde movement, not only
along the whole front under attack, but also for many miles on either
flank. This recoil he was never able to arrest, as we followed up our
victory by blow after blow delivered while he was still reeling from
the effects of the first onslaught of August 8th.

But, so far, I have written of the Infantry plan only; and much remains
to be told of the simultaneous action designed to be taken by all the
other arms, which rendered possible and emphasized the success of the
Infantry. No one can rival me in my admiration for the transcendant
military virtues of the Australian Infantryman, for his bravery, his
battle discipline, his absolute reliability, his individual resource,
his initiative and endurance. But I had formed the theory that the true
rôle of the Infantry was not to expend itself upon heroic physical
effort, nor to wither away under merciless machine-gun fire, nor to
impale itself on hostile bayonets, nor to tear itself to pieces in
hostile entanglements--(I am thinking of Pozières and Stormy Trench and
Bullecourt, and other bloody fields)--but, on the contrary, to advance
under the maximum possible protection of the maximum possible array of
mechanical resources, in the form of guns, machine guns, tanks, mortars
and aeroplanes; to advance with as little impediment as possible; to
be relieved as far as possible of the obligation to _fight_ their
way forward; to march, resolutely, regardless of the din and tumult
of battle, to the appointed goal; and there to hold and defend the
territory gained; and to gather in the form of prisoners, guns and
stores, the fruits of victory.

It is my purpose, therefore, to emphasize particularly the extent to
which this theory was realized in the battle under review, by the
achievement of a great and decisive victory at a trifling cost. That
result was due primarily to the very ample resources in mechanical
aids which the foresight and confidence of the Fourth Army Commander,
General Rawlinson, entrusted to me; but it was due partly, also, to the
manner in which those resources were employed. And that is why I shall
attempt to describe the remainder of the Corps plan.

[Illustration: Tanks marching into Battle.]

[Illustration: Morcourt Valley--the Australian attack swept across this
on August 8th, 1918.]


The battle plan (_continued_)

Surprise has been, from time immemorial, one of the most potent weapons
in the armoury of the tactician. It can be achieved not merely by
doing that which the enemy least anticipates, but also by acting at
a time when he least expects any action. It was a weapon which had
been employed only rarely in the previous greater battles of this war.
The offensive before Cambrai, planned by General Sir Julian Byng, and
the battle of Hamel, were rare exceptions to our general procedure of
heralding the approach of an offensive by feverish and obvious activity
on our part, and by a long sustained preliminary bombardment of the
enemy's defences, designed to destroy his works and impair his _moral_.

The situation on the Fourth Army front, early in August, 1918, offered
a rare opportunity for the employment of surprise tactics on the
boldest scale. The incessant "nibbling" activities of the Australian
troops during the preceding three months had been of such a consistent
nature as to suggest that our resources were not equal to any greater
effort upon such an extended front as we were then holding, from the
Ancre down to and beyond Villers-Bretonneux. On the other hand, the
passivity of the first French Army, to the south of the latter town,
conveyed no suggestion of any offensive enterprise on the part of our
Ally in this region.

The problem, therefore, was to convert an extensive front from a state
of passive defence to a state of complete preparedness for an attack on
the largest scale, and to keep the enemy--who, as always, was alert and
observant both from the ground and from the air--in complete ignorance
of every portion of these extensive preparations, until the very moment
when the battle was to burst upon him. It was, of course, a question
not merely of deceiving the enemy troops in their trenches immediately
opposed to us, but also of arousing in the minds of the German High
Command no suspicions which might have prompted them to hold in a
state of readiness, or to put into motion towards the threatened zone,
any of the reserve Divisions forming part of their still considerable

The following memorandum, which was issued to the whole of the senior
commanders in the Australian Corps on August 1st, gives in outline some
of the measures adopted to this end:


"1. The first essential to success is the maintenance of secrecy.
The means to be adopted are as follows:

  (i) No person is to be told or informed in any part or way until
      such time as the development of the plan demands action from him.
      This is the main principle and will be pursued throughout, down to
      the lowest formation.

  (ii) Divisional Commanders will work out their reliefs in such a
       way as will ensure that the troops in the line know nothing of
       the proposed operation until the last possible moment. This will
       apply in particular to any troops who may be employed in the area
       south of the AMIENS--VILLERS-BRETONNEUX railway.

"2. In order to conceal the intention to carry out a large operation on
this front the following plan has been adopted:

"The Australian Corps has been relieved of one divisional sector by
the Third Corps, and takes over a divisional sector from the French
Corps. The object of this is to lead the enemy, and our own people,
too, to believe that the action of the French in the SOISSONS salient
has been so costly as to demand that further French troops had to be
made available, and that this is the apparent cause of the extension of
the Australian Corps front to the south.

"3. (a) The idea is being circulated that the Canadian Corps is being
brought to the south to take over the rôle of Reserve Corps at the
junction of the British and French Armies in replacement of the 22nd
Corps, which occupied that rôle until it was ordered to the CHAMPAGNE
front. In order that the enemy may be deceived as to the destination
of the Canadian Corps in the event of his discovering that it has been
withdrawn from the ARRAS front, Canadian wireless personnel has been
sent to the Second Army area,[11] where they have taken over certain
wireless zones.

"(b) To prevent the enemy from discovering the arrival of the Canadian
Corps in this region, they will not take over from the 4th Australian
Division until 'Y' night. This will necessitate a proportion of the
troops of the Fourth Australian Division remaining in the line in this
sector until 'Y' night. As the Fourth Australian Division will be
required to participate in the attack it is proposed to distribute one
brigade to hold the whole of the line from 'W' night onwards. This will
enable the remaining two Brigades to be withdrawn, given a day or two's
rest, and allow of their part in the operation being fully explained to
them. The place of these two Brigades in rear of the line Brigade will
be taken over by Canadian Divisions.

"(c) In order to deceive our own troops as to the cause of the coming
down here of the Canadians, a rumour is going abroad that the Canadian
Corps is being brought down with the object of relieving the Australian
Corps in the line. To most of the Australian Corps this would appear to
be an obvious reason for their coming, as the idea has been mooted on
former occasions. While it is not intended that this rumour should be
promulgated, it is not desired that anyone should disclose the actual
facts. This idea, together with the idea put forth in paragraph 3 (a),
should do much to prevent the real facts from becoming known."[12]

The references to "W," "X," "Y" and "Z" days and nights in the above
memo, are to the successive days preceding Zero day--known briefly as
"Z" day, on which the battle was to open. The actual _date_ of "Z"
day was kept a close secret by the Army Commander and the three Corps
Commanders concerned, until a few days before the actual date; while
the actual moment of assault, or "Zero" hour, was not determined or
made known until noon on the day preceding the battle, after a close
study of the conditions of visibility before and after break of day, on
the three preceding mornings.

But these arrangements were directed only towards the prevention of
a premature disclosure of our intention to attack to the enemy, to
our own troops, and through them to the civilian public, and to enemy
agents, whose presence among us had always to be reckoned with. It
still remained to carry out our battle preparations in a manner which
would preclude the possibility of detection by enemy aircraft, either
through direct observation, or by the help of photography.

Accordingly I issued orders that all movements of troops and of
transport of all descriptions, should take place only during the
hours of darkness, whether in the forward or in the rear areas; and
in order to keep an effective control over the faithful execution of
these difficult orders, I arranged for relays of "police" aeroplanes,
furnished by our No. 3 Squadron, to fly continuously, by day, over
the whole of the Corps area, in order to detect and report upon any
observed unusual movement.

At the same time, the normal work on the construction of new lines of
defence, covering Amiens, in my rear areas, which had been continuously
in progress for many weeks and was still far from complete, was to
continue, with a full display of activity; so that the enemy should
be unable to infer, from a stoppage of such works, any change in our

Orders were also given to discourage the usual stream of officers who
ordinarily visited our front trenches prior to an operation, and who
often, thoughtlessly, made a great display of unusual activity, under
the very noses of the enemy front line observers, by the flourishing
of maps and field-glasses, and by bobbing up above our parapets
to catch fleeting glimpses of the country to be fought over. Such
reconnaissance, however desirable, was to be confined to a few senior
Commanders and Staff Officers. All subordinates were to rely upon
the very large number of admirable photographs, taken regularly from
the air, both vertically and obliquely, by the indefatigable Corps
Air Squadron. These served excellently as a substitute for visual
observation from the ground.

The prohibition against the movement of any transport in the daylight
naturally very seriously hampered the freedom of action of the troops
of all arms and services, but was felt in quite a special degree by the
whole of the Artillery. Over 600 guns of all natures had to be dragged
to and emplaced in their battle positions, and there camouflaged,
each gun involving the concurrent movement of a number of associated
vehicles. A full supply of ammunition had to be collected from
railhead, distributed by mechanical transport to great main dumps, and
thence taken by horsed vehicles for distribution to the numerous actual

As the amount of ammunition to be held in readiness for the opening of
the battle averaged 500 rounds per gun, it became necessary to handle
a total of about 300,000 rounds of shells and a similar number of
cartridges of all calibres, from 3½ to 12 inches, not to mention fuses
and primers, or the immense bulk and weight of infantry and machine-gun
ammunition, bombs, flares, rockets, and the like, for the supply of all
of which the artillery was equally responsible.[13] The great amount of
movement involved in the handling and dumping of all these munitions,
and the deterrent difficulties of carrying out all such work only
during the short hours of darkness, must be left to the imagination.

The artillery was, however, confronted, for the first time, with a
difficulty of quite a different nature. In the previous years of the
war every gun, _after_ being placed in its fighting pit or position,
had to be carefully "registered," by firing a series of rounds at
previously identified reference points, and noting the errors in line
or range due to the instrumental error of the gun, which error varied
with the gradual wearing-out of the gun barrel. By these means, battery
commanders were enabled to compute the necessary corrections to be
applied to any given gun, at any one time or place, so as to ensure
that the gun would fire true to the task set.

Such registration naturally involved, for a large number of guns, a
very considerable volume of Artillery fire, the extent of which would
speedily disclose to the enemy the presence of a largely increased mass
of Artillery, and would inevitably lead him to the conclusion that
some mischief was afoot. Fortunately, however, the rapid evolution
during the war of scientific methods had by this juncture placed at my
disposal a means of ascertaining the instrumental error of the guns
on a testing ground located many miles behind the battle zone. This
method was known as "calibration," and consisted of the firing of the
gun through a series of wired screens, placed successively at known
distances from the muzzle of the gun. The whole elements of the flight
of the projectile could then be accurately determined by recording the
intervals of time between its passage through the respective screens.
From these data could be deduced the muzzle velocity, the jump, the
droop and the lateral error of each gun.

Simple and obvious as was the principle of such an experiment, the
merit of the new process of calibration lay in the remarkable rapidity
and accuracy with which the electric and photographic mechanism
employed made the necessary delicate time observations, correct to
small fractions of a second, and automatically deduced the mathematical
results required. The calibration hut, in which this mechanism was
housed, became one of the show spots to which visitors to the Corps
area were taken to be overawed by the scientific methods of our gunners.

In the early days of August the calibration range of the Australian
Corps was a scene of feverish activity. All day long, battery after
battery of guns could be seen route-marching to the testing ground,
going through the performance of firing six rounds per gun, and then
route-marching back again the same night to its allotted battle
position. So rapid was the procedure that long before he had reached
his destination the Battery Commander had received the full error sheet
of every one of his guns, and by means of it was enabled to go into
action whenever required without any previous registration whatever.
This great advance in the art of gunnery contributed in the most direct
manner to the result that when these 600 guns opened their tornado of
fire upon the enemy at daybreak on August 8th, the very presence in
this area of most of them remained totally unsuspected.

The manner of the employment of the ponderous mass of Heavy Artillery
at my disposal will be referred to later. The action of that portion of
the Field Artillery which was to become mobile in the concluding phases
of the battle has already been dealt with. It remains only to describe,
in outline, the arrangements made for the normal barrage fire of the
Field Artillery during the first phase.

It has been my invariable practice to reduce the barrage plan to
the simplest possible elements, avoiding in every direction the
over-elaboration so frequently encountered. By following these
principles not only is the actual preparatory work of the Artillery
greatly reduced in bulk and simplified in quality, but also the
liability to mistake and to erratic shooting of individual batteries or
guns, and consequent risks of damage to our own Infantry, are greatly
diminished. These advantages are bought at the small price of calling
upon the Infantry to undertake, before the battle, such rectifications
and adjustments of our front line as would accommodate themselves to
a straight and simple barrage line. This is in sharp contrast to the
much more usual procedure which prevailed (and persisted in other
Corps to the end of the war) of complicating the barrage enormously
in an attempt to make it conform to the tortuous configuration of our
Infantry front line.

For the present battle it was accordingly arranged that the barrage
should open on a line which was _dead straight_ for the whole 7,000
yards of our front, and the Infantry tape lines,[14] which were to mark
the alignment of the Infantry at the moment of launching the assault,
were to be laid exactly 200 yards in rear of this Artillery "start
line." The barrage was to advance, in exactly parallel lines, 100 yards
at a time, at equal rates along the whole frontage. These rates were
100 yards every 3 minutes, for the first 24 minutes, and thereafter 100
yards every 4 minutes, until the conclusion of the time-table at 143
minutes after Zero. By such a simple plan every one of the 432 field
guns engaged was given a task of uniform character.

Great as was the care necessary to conceal all Artillery preparations,
it required still greater thought and consideration to keep entirely
secret the presence behind the battle front of some 160 Tanks, and
particularly to conceal their approach march into the battle. To both
combatants, the arrival of a Tank, or anything that could be mistaken
on an air photograph for a Tank, had for long been regarded as a sure
indication of coming trouble. And, therefore, imputing to the enemy the
same keenness to detect, in good time, the presence of Tanks, and the
same nervousness which we had been accustomed to feel when prisoners'
tales of the coming into the war of enormous hordes of German monsters
had been crystallized by the reports of some excited observer into a
definite suspicion that the fateful hour had arrived, I considered
it wise to repeat on a much elaborated scale all the precautions of
secrecy first employed for this purpose at Hamel.

It is quite easy to detect from an air photograph the broad, corrugated
track made by a Tank, if the ground be soft and muddy enough to record
such an impression. Consequently, Tanks were forbidden to move across
ploughed fields or marshy land, and were confined to hard surface.
They moved only in small bodies, and only at night, and were carefully
stabled, during the daylight, in the midst of village ruins, or under
the deep shade of woods and thickets. Thus, by daily stages, and by
cautious bounds, each Tank or group of Tanks ultimately reached its
appointed assembly ground, from which it was to make its last leap into
the thick of the battle, where it would arrive precisely at Zero hour.

But that last leap was just the whole difficulty. For the Tank is
a noisy brute, and it was just as imperative to make him inaudible
as to make him invisible. By a fortunate chance, the noise and buzz
made by the powerful petrol engines of a Tank are so similar to
those of the engines of a large-sized bombing plane, as for example
of the Handley-Page type, especially if the latter be flying at a
comparatively low altitude, that from a little distance off it is quite
impossible to distinguish the one sound from the other.

It was therefore possible to adopt the conjurer's trick of directing
the special attention of the observer to those things which do not
particularly matter, in order to distract his attention from other
things which really do matter very much. In other words, a flight of
high-power bombing planes was kept flying backwards and forwards over
the battle front during the whole of that very hour, just before dawn,
during which our 160 Tanks were loudly and fussily buzzing their way
forward, along carefully reconnoitred routes, marked by special black
and white tapes, across that last mile of country which brought them up
level with the infantry at the precise moment when the great battle was
ushered in by the belching forth of a volcano of Artillery fire.

The subterfuge succeeded to perfection, as was obvious to observers and
confirmed by the subsequent narratives of prisoners. The German trench
garrisons and trench observers were fully occupied in listening to the
hum of the bombing planes, in watching their threatened visitation for
their customary "egg" dropping performances, in engaging them with
rifle fire, and in holding themselves in readiness to duck for cover
should they come too near. They never suspected for a moment that this
was merely a new stratagem of "noise camouflage," and that the real
danger was stalking steadily and relentlessly towards them over the
whole front, upon the surface of the ground, instead of in the air.

But the trick would not have succeeded so well, or would perhaps have
failed altogether, if the employment of those planes had been confined
to the morning of the battle. Such an unusual demonstration might have
aroused vague suspicions sufficient to justify a "stand to arms" and
a preparedness for some further activity on our part. And what we had
most to fear was the danger of "giving the show away" in the last ten
minutes. For it would have taken much less than that time for nervous
German trench sentries, by the firing of signal rockets, to bring down
upon our front line trenches, crowded as they were with expectant
fighters, a murderous fire from the German Artillery.

Consequently the puzzled enemy was treated to the spectacle of an
early morning promenade by these same bombing planes on every morning,
for an hour before dawn, during several mornings preceding the actual
battle day. Doubtless the first morning's exhibition of such apparently
aimless air activity in the darkness really startled him. After two
or three repetitions, it merely earned his contempt. By the time
the actual date arrived he treated it as negligible. All prisoners
interrogated subsequently agreed that neither the presence nor the
noisy approach of so mighty a phalanx of Tanks had been in the least
suspected up to the very moment when they plunged into view out of the
darkness, just as day was breaking.

The force of Tanks placed at my disposal for the purposes of this
battle comprised the 2nd, 8th and 13th Tank Battalions, commanded
respectively by Lieut.-Colonels Bryce, Bingham and Lyon, all under the
5th Tank Brigade, commanded by Brigadier-General Courage. All these
Tanks were of the Mark V. type, as used at Hamel; but there were also
attached to the same Brigade a Battalion of Mark V. (Star) Tanks, of
still later design, under Lieut.-Colonel Ramsay-Fairfax, and also
a full Company of 24 Carrying Tanks, under Major Partington. These
Carrying Tanks were not employed in fighting, but were of wonderful
utility in the rapid transport of stores of all descriptions across the
battle zone; and in carrying the wounded out of the battle on their
return journey. I am confident that each of these Tanks was capable of
doing the work of at least 200 men, with an almost complete immunity
from casualty.

There were thus available to me 168 Tanks in all, and their
dispositions have been already indicated in sufficient detail in
Chapter V. It was a definite feature of the whole plan of battle that
the combined Tank and Infantry tactics which had proved so successful
in the Hamel operation, and which have been described in Chapter II.,
were to be employed and exploited to their utmost. Each Tank became
thereby definitely associated with a specified body of Infantry, and
acted during the actual battle under the immediate orders of the
Commander of that body: the working rule was "one Tank, one Company."

To this was added the second working principle of "one Tank, one task,"
which rules meant, in their practical application, that no individual
Tank was to be relied upon to serve more than one body of Infantry, nor
to carry out more than one phase of the battle. Elementary as this may
sound, it involved this striking advantage that, in the event of any
one Tank becoming disabled, its loss would impair no portion of the
battle plan other than that fraction of it to which that Tank had been

Thus, the whole of the Infantry operating in Phases B and C of the
battle had each their own adequate equipment of Tanks, which would
be certain to be available to them, even if the whole of the Tanks
employed during Phase A had been knocked out. At the same time clear
orders were issued, and due arrangements were made, that all Tanks
which survived Phase A, and whose crews were not by then too exhausted,
were to rally (during the 100 minutes' pause on the green line) in
order to co-operate in the succeeding phases of the fight.

There was still another Unit, coming under the jurisdiction of the Tank
Corps, which proved of wonderful utility to me, and which deserved
quite special mention. This was the 17th Armoured Car Battalion,
organized into two companies of eight cars each. Each car carried one
forward and one rear Hotchkiss gun. It was heavily armoured, and the
crew operating the guns, as also the car driver, were protected from
all except direct hits by Artillery. The cars had a speed of 20 miles
per hour, either forwards or backwards. The Battalion was under the
command of Lieut.-Colonel E. J. Carter, an officer of the British
Cavalry. I allotted 12 cars to the use of the 5th Australian Division,
under Major-General Hobbs, who would be likely to find specially useful
employment for them, in scouring the network of roads beyond his final
objective; and retained four cars in Corps reserve for a special
reconnaissance enterprise.

Full of promise of usefulness as were the speed and armament of these
cars, they suffered from one serious disability. Their top hamper was
so heavy compared to their light chassis that they could not be relied
upon to travel without premature breakdown across country, or indeed
on anything but moderately good roads. Now, such roads were certainly
available, as was evident from aeroplane photographs, in the enemy's
back country, after a zone for a mile or two immediately behind his
front line was passed; but all the subsidiary roads in that zone had
been practically obliterated by shell-craters, and even the great main
road from Villers-Bretonneux to Saint Quentin, which is a Roman Road
and substantially constructed throughout, was known to have been cut up
and traversed by numerous trenches both on our side and on the enemy's
side of "No Man's Land." There was also every expectation that the few
remaining trees which flanked this great road would be felled by our
bombardment, and some of them would surely fall across and obstruct the

That road was, however, the only possible outlet into enemy country for
the armoured cars, and I resolved upon a special programme, and the
allotment of a special body of troops for its execution. The object
was to ensure that the cars could be taken across the impracticable
and obstructed stretch of roadway already described, and launched at
the enemy at its eastern extremity, at the earliest possible moment of
time. Then, before the numerous enemy Corps and Divisional Headquarters
and all their rear organization had time to get clear intelligence of
what was happening at the front, or to recover from the first shock of
surprise, these Armoured Cars would fall upon them, and, travelling
hither and thither at great speed, would spread death, destruction and
confusion in all directions.

A whole Battalion of Pioneers, and detachments of other technical
troops, with an adequate amount of road-repairing material, were got
ready, under the direct orders of my Chief Engineer, to carry out this
special task. All trenches in that portion of the road lying within our
own zone of occupation were bridged or filled in and all obstructions
cleared away before the day of the battle. But as to the more distant
stretch of the road, still in the hands of the enemy, elaborate
preparations were made, by a careful and detailed distribution of tasks
to small gangs of men, and by a fully worked-out time-table. The plan
was that from the moment of the opening of the battle, this road repair
work was to commence, and its advance was to synchronize with the
advance of the Artillery barrage and Infantry skirmishing line.

A pilot armoured car was to follow the working gangs in order to test
the sufficiency of the repair work, and arrangements were made for
sending back signals to the remainder of the cars, lying waiting in
readiness in the shelter of Villers-Bretonneux. It was planned that the
first two miles of road would, by these means, be cleared and repaired
to a sufficient width, within four hours after the opening of the

I am tempted to anticipate the narrative of the battle by saying that
the whole plan worked out with complete success to the last detail. The
cars got through punctually to time, and the story of their subsequent
adventures, as told later, reads like a romance. As indicating the
importance which I attached to this little enterprise, which in
magnitude was quite a small "side-show," but which in its results had
the most far-reaching consequence, I reproduce below the full text
(omitting merely formal portions) of one of the several orders issued
by me on this subject:

  Australian Corps,
  7th August, 1918.

  1. The detachment of the 17th Armoured Car Battalion held in Corps
  Reserve (2 sections each of 2 cars), will be employed on the
  special duty of long distance reconnaissance on "Z" day.

  2. These sections will be sent forward under the orders of the
  C.O., 17th Armoured Car Battalion, passing the green line as soon
  as practicable after Zero plus four hours, and proceeding eastward,
  following the lifts of our Heavy Artillery bombardment, so as to
  pass the blue line at or after Zero plus five hours.

  3. The area to be reconnoitred lies in the bend of the Somme, north
  of the Villers-Bretonneux--Chaulnes Railway; but the old Somme
  battlefield lying N.E. of Chaulnes need not be entered.

  4. Information is required as to presence, distribution and
  movement of enemy supporting and reserve troops, and his defensive
  organizations within this area.

  5. While the primary function of this detachment is to reconnoitre
  and not to fight, except defensively, advantage should be taken of
  every opportunity to damage the enemy's telephonic and telegraphic

  6. The following information as to enemy organizations is thought
  to be reliable:

    Vauvillers      Billets and Detraining point.
    Proyart         Divisional H.Q. and billets.
    Chuignolles     Divisional H.Q. and billets.
    Framerville     Corps H.Q.
    Rainecourt      Billets.
    Cappy           Aerodrome and dumps.
    Foucaucourt     Corps H.Q., dump, billets.
    Chaulnes        Important railway junction.
    Ommiécourt      Dumps.
    Fontaine        Aerodrome, Div. H.Q. and dump.

The Heavy Artillery of the Corps was divided, for this battle as
normally, into two distinct groups, of which the one, or Bombardment
Group, was to devote its energies to destructive attack, throughout the
course of the battle, upon known enemy centres of resistance, suspected
Headquarters, and telephone or telegraph exchanges, villages believed
to be housing support and reserve troops, railway junctions and the
like. The selection of all such targets depended upon a judicious
choice of many tempting objectives disclosed by the very comprehensive
records of the highly efficient Intelligence Officers belonging to my
Heavy Artillery Headquarters. After that selection was made, all that
remained was to draw up a time-table for the action of all bombardment
guns which would ensure that they would lift off any given target just
before our own Infantry would be likely to reach it, and then to apply
their fire to a more distant locality.

The second group of Heavy Guns was known as the Counter-battery Group,
and was at all times under the direction of a special staff, especially
skilled in all the scientific means at our disposal for determining the
position and distribution of the enemy's Artillery, and in the methods
and artifices for silencing or totally destroying it. Just as it was
the special rôle of the Tanks to deal with the enemy machine guns, so
it was the special rôle of our Counter-battery Artillery to deal with
the enemy's field and heavy guns and howitzers. These--the guns and the
machine guns--were the only things that troubled us; because, for the
German soldier individually, our Australian infantryman is and always
has been more than a match.

Very special care was, therefore, devoted to the whole of the
arrangements, first for carefully ascertaining beforehand the actual or
probable position of every enemy gun that could be brought to bear on
our Infantry, and then for allocating as many heavy guns as could be
spared, each with a task appropriate to its range and hitting-power, to
the destruction or suppression of the selected target. For it served
the immediate purpose of eliminating the causes of molestation to our
advancing Infantry equally well, whether the enemy gun was merely
silenced by a sustained fire of shrapnel or high explosives which drove
off the gun detachment, or by a flood of gas which compelled them to
put on their gas masks, or whether it was actually destroyed by a
direct hit and rendered permanently useless.

The days before the battle were of supreme interest in this particular
aspect. Each day I visited the Counter-battery Staff Officer, in his
modest shanty, hidden away in the interior of a leafy wood, where
in constant touch, by telephone, with all balloons, observers and
sound-ranging stations, and surrounded by an imposing array of maps,
studded with pins of many shapes and colours, he made his daily report
to me of the enemy gun positions definitely identified or located, or
found to have been vacated. And here again there was an opportunity for
the display of a modest little stratagem. Having suspected or verified
the fact that the enemy had altered the location of any given battery,
leaving the empty gun pits as a tempting bait to us, fruitlessly to
expend our energies and ammunition upon them--it would have been the
worst of folly to prove to him that he had failed to fool us, by
engaging his battery in its new position.

On the contrary, we deliberately allowed ourselves to be fooled; and
for several days before the great battle we intentionally committed
the stupid error of methodically engaging all his empty gun positions.
No doubt the German gunners laughed consumedly as they watched, from a
safe distance, our wasted efforts; but they did not, doubtless, laugh
quite so heartily when at dawn on the great day, the whole weight of
our attack from over a hundred of my heaviest Counter-battery guns
fells upon them in the new positions, which they believed that we had
failed to detect.

The Intelligence Service of the Corps was an extensive and highly
organized department, whose jurisdiction extended throughout all the
Divisions, Brigades and Battalions. Its routine work comprised the
collection and collation of the daily flow of information from a
large staff of observers in the forward zone, from the interrogation
of prisoners, from the examination of documents and maps, and from
neighbouring Corps and Armies. Before and during battle, however, a
greatly added burden fell upon the shoulders of the Intelligence Staff.

Closely associated with this branch of the Staff work were two
activities of quite special interest. The Australian Corps organized a
Topographical Section, manned by expert draftsmen and lithographers,
who compiled and printed all the maps required throughout the whole
Corps, and it was their business to keep all battle maps, barrage maps
and topographical data recorded and corrected up to date. This alone
proved a heavy task when pace had to be kept with a rapid advance. At
such times the maps prepared on one day became obsolete two or three
days later.

[Illustration: Dug-outs at Froissy Beacon--being "mopped up" during

[Illustration: Péronne--barricade in main street.]

The issue of such maps was not confined to Commanders and Staffs. For
all important operations, large numbers of handy sectional maps were
struck off, so that they could be placed in the hands even of the
subordinate officers and non-commissioned officers. These maps not only
enabled the most junior leaders to study their objectives and tasks
in detail before every battle, but also became a convenient vehicle
for sending back reports as to the positions reached or occupied by
front-line troops or detached parties. On occasions as many as five
thousand of such maps would be struck off for the use of the troops, in
a single operation.

There was also a branch of the Intelligence Staff attached to the
No. 3 Australian Air Squadron. Its special business was to print and
distribute large numbers of photographs, both vertical and oblique,
taken from the air over the territory to be captured--showing trenches,
wire, roads, hedges and many other features of paramount interest to
the troops. Thousands of such photographs were distributed before every

The important considerations, in regard both to maps and photographs,
were that on the one hand, they were of priceless value to all who
understood how to read and use them, and on the other hand, the event
proved that their issue was in no sense labour in vain, for the keen
interest taken, even by the private soldiers, in these facilities
contributed powerfully to the success and precision with which all
battle orders were carried out, and this more than repaid us for the
additional trouble involved. It was inspiriting to me to see, on the
eve of every great battle, as I made my round of the troops, numerous
small groups of men gathered around their sergeant or corporal,
eagerly discussing these maps and the photographs and the things they
disclosed, the lie of the land, the wire, the trenches, the probable
machine-gun posts, the dug-outs and the suspected enemy strong points.

My account of the details prepared for the battle of August 8th is not
nearly complete; but the demands of space forbid any more informative
reference to numerous other essential ingredients of the plan than a
mere recital of some of them. Thus, for example, it was necessary to
decide the action of all Machine Guns, both those used collectively
under Corps control, and those left to be handled by the Divisions;
the employment of Smoke Tactics, by the use of smoke screens created
both by mortars from the ground and by phosphorus bombs dropped from
the air; the use to be made of all the technical troops (Engineers
and Pioneers) in bridging, road and railway repairs and field
fortifications; the arrangements for the medical evacuation of the
wounded, and for the collection and safe-keeping of the anticipated
haul of prisoners, the synchronization of watches throughout the whole
command, so that action should occur punctually at a common clock time;
and last, but not least, the establishment of the machinery of liaison
internally between all the numerous formations of the Australian Corps,
and also externally with my flank Corps, the Canadians, under Currie,
on my right, and the British Third Corps, under Butler, on my left.

Such, in outline, were my battle plans and my preparations for what I
hoped would prove an operation of decisive influence upon the future
of the campaign. The immediate results, which could be estimated on
the spot and at the time, and the admissions of Ludendorff, which came
to light only many months afterwards, combine to show that I was not


[11] This was in Flanders and Belgium.

[12] The secret was, indeed, so well kept, and the "camouflage" stories
circulated proved so effective, that the King of the Belgians forwarded
a strong protest to Marshal Foch because the Canadians were about to
deliver an attack in his country, without his having been consulted
or made aware of the plans; and the Canadian Headquarters in London
complained to the War Office that the Canadian Forces were being
divided, and were being sent by detachments to different parts of the
front, instead of being always kept together as the Canadian Government
desired. It is said that even Mr. Lloyd George knew nothing of the
intention to attack until late on the day before the battle.

[13] The weight of supplies of all kinds exceeded 10,000 tons.

[14] See Chapter XIII.



The preliminary movements of Divisions were duly carried out without
special difficulty. The Fifth Australian Division was relieved on
August 1st by a Division of the Third Corps, in that part of the Corps
front which lay north of the Somme, and passed into Corps Reserve, in a
rear area, there to undergo training with Tanks, and to prepare itself
for the work which it had to do.

The Fourth Australian Division, from Corps Reserve, took over the
French front, as far south as the Amiens--Roye road on August 2nd, and
on the next night took over from the Second Australian Division all
that part of its front which lay south of the railway, thus disposing
itself upon what was ultimately to become the battle front of the
Canadian Corps.

On the same night, the Second and Third Divisions, who had thus been
left in sole occupation of the sector which was to be the Australian
Corps battle front, carried out a readjustment of their own mutual
boundary, which would place each of these two Divisions upon its own
proper battle front.

On the night of August 4th, the Second and Third Divisions rearranged
their defensive dispositions so that each of them deployed only a
single Brigade for the passive defence of its front, and withdrew to
its rear area its remaining two Brigades, who were thus afforded three
clear days to complete their internal preparations.

The Canadian Corps commenced to arrive, and on August 4th two Canadian
Brigades relieved two Brigades of the Fourth Division, thereby
releasing them so that they also might commence to prepare for the
battle. It was originally intended that the last Brigade of the Fourth
Division should also be relieved by Canadians on August 6th, when
an untoward incident happened, which caused considerable alarm and
speculation; and it led to a modification of this part of the plan.

The 13th Australian Brigade (of the Fourth Division) was on August 4th
spread out upon a front of over six thousand yards. It had no option
but to leave the greater part of the front-line trenches unoccupied,
and to defend its area with a series of small, but isolated, posts.
On that night, one of these posts, in the vicinity of the road to
Roye,[15] was raided by the enemy, and the whole of its occupants,
comprising a sergeant and four or five men, were surrounded and taken

It was an unusual display of enterprise on the part of the enemy, at
this point of time and in this locality. Whether it had been inspired
by sneering criticisms from behind his line of the nature which have
been quoted, or whether signs of unusual movement or a changed attitude
on the part of our trench garrison had instigated a suspicion that
something was happening which required investigation, could only be
surmised. But the fact remained that five Australians had been taken,
at a place several miles south of the southernmost point hitherto
occupied by "the English."

The side-stepping of the Australian Corps southwards had thereby become
known to the enemy, and it was necessary to estimate the deductions
which he would be likely to draw from that discovery. Much depended
upon the behaviour of these prisoners. Would they talk? and, if so,
what did they know? That Australian captives would not volunteer
information likely to imperil the lives of their comrades, might be
taken for granted, but German Intelligence Officers had means at their
disposal to draw from prisoners, unwittingly, anything they might know.

We could only hope, under the circumstances, that these men really did
know nothing of our intention to attack; and that, if they had become
aware of the presence of Canadian troops in the rear areas, they would
believe the story which we had sedulously spread, that the Canadians
were merely coming to relieve the Australian Corps, so that it might
have a long rest after its heroic labours.

Not many weeks afterwards it was my good fortune to capture a German
Headquarters, in which were found Intelligence Reports containing a
narrative of this very incident. The importance of the capture of these
men had been recognized, and they had been taken far behind the lines
for an exhaustive examination. But, despite all efforts of the German
Intelligence Staff, they had refused to disclose anything whatever but
their names and units--which they were bound to do under the rules
of war. The report went on to praise their soldierly bearing and
loyal reticence, and held up these brave Australians as a model to be
followed by their own men, adding that such a demeanour could only earn
the respect of an enemy.

The alarm which this untoward happening created on our side of the line
led to a determination to redouble our precautions. The Army Commander
proposed, and I agreed, that the relief of the 13th Brigade by
Canadians, _prior_ to the eve of the battle, was out of the question,
as being too risky. It was decided that the 13th Brigade must remain in
the line until the very last.

This decision deprived General Maclagan of one of his three Brigades,
and as it would be asking too much of the Fourth Division to carry out
the rôle which had been allotted to it in the battle, with only two
Brigades, I decided that the only thing to be done was to transfer to
the Fourth Division, temporarily, one of the Brigades of the First
Division, which was to arrive from the north in the course of the next
three days.

Urgent telegrams were therefore despatched to accelerate the arrival
of one of the Brigades of the First Division. In due course the First
Australian Brigade (Mackay) arrived by four special trains on the
night of August 6th, in sufficient time to enable it to take its place
in General Maclagan's order of battle, in substitution for the 13th
Brigade. The 13th Brigade was destined to have some further stirring
adventures before it again joined its own Division.

The day preceding the great battle arrived all too soon. The prospect
of an advance had sent a thrill through all ranks and expectation
became tense. The use of the telephone had been ordered to be
restricted, especially in the forward areas; for it was known that the
enemy was in possession of listening apparatus, similar to our own, by
which conversations on the telephone could be tapped, and unguarded
references to the impending operations could be overheard.

Final inspections had, therefore, to be made, and final injunctions
administered, by Commanders and Staffs traversing long distances over
the extensive Corps area by motor car and horse, and even on foot. A
strange and ominous quiet pervaded the scene; it was only when the
explosion of a stray enemy shell would cause hundreds of heads to peer
out from trenches, gun-pits and underground shelters, that one became
aware that the whole country was really packed thick with a teeming
population carefully hidden away.

Later in the afternoon of that last day came another note of alarm. To
the Fourth and Fifth Australian Divisions had been allotted eighteen
Store and Carrying Tanks. These had been brought the night before,
into a small plantation lying about half a mile to the north of
Villers-Bretonneux, loaded to their utmost capacity with battle stores
of all descriptions: reserves of food and water, rifle ammunition, and
a large reserve of Stokes Mortar bombs; also considerable supplies of
petrol, to satisfy the ravenous appetites of the Tanks themselves.

This locality suddenly became the object of the closest attention by
the enemy's Artillery. He began to deluge it with such a volume of fire
that in less than half an hour a great conflagration had been started,
which did not subside until fifteen of the Tanks and all their valuable
cargo had been reduced to irretrievable ruin.

Had some unusually keen enemy observer perceived the presence of
Tanks in our area, and would that knowledge have disclosed to him
our jealously guarded secret? Fortunately, my Artillery Commander,
Brigadier-General Coxen, making his last rounds of the Battery
positions, was an eye-witness of the whole occurrence, and was able
to reassure me. A chance shell--the last of a dozen fired entirely at
random into our area--fell into the very centre of this group of Tanks,
and set fire to some of the petrol. The resulting cloud of smoke became
a signal to the enemy that something was burning which our men would
probably attempt to salve; and in consonance with an entirely correct
Artillery procedure, he at once concentrated a heavy fire upon the spot.

That incident is typical of the perturbations through which all
responsible Commanders have to pass on such occasions. The occurrence
was explained as accidental, and implied no premature discovery by the
enemy. Nothing remained but to repair the damage, and make special
arrangements to replenish the Stores which these Divisions had lost.

On the forenoon of the day before the battle, the following message was
promulgated to all the troops:

  Corps Headquarters,
  August 7th, 1918.


  For the first time in the history of this Corps, all five
  Australian Divisions will to-morrow engage in the largest and most
  important battle operation ever undertaken by the Corps.

  They will be supported by an exceptionally powerful Artillery, and
  by Tanks and Aeroplanes on a scale never previously attempted. The
  full resources of our sister Dominion, the Canadian Corps, will
  also operate on our right, while two British Divisions will guard
  our left flank.

  The many successful offensives which the Brigades and Battalions
  of this Corps have so brilliantly executed during the past four
  months have been but the prelude to, and the preparation for, this
  greatest and culminating effort.

  Because of the completeness of our plans and dispositions, of the
  magnitude of the operations, of the number of troops employed, and
  of the depth to which we intend to overrun the enemy's positions,
  this battle will be one of the most memorable of the whole war;
  and there can be no doubt that, by capturing our objectives, we
  shall inflict blows upon the enemy which will make him stagger, and
  will bring the end appreciably nearer.

  I entertain no sort of doubt that every Australian soldier will
  worthily rise to so great an occasion, and that every man, imbued
  with the spirit of victory, will, in spite of every difficulty
  that may confront him, be animated by no other resolve than grim
  determination to see through to a clean finish, whatever his task
  may be.

  The work to be done to-morrow will perhaps make heavy demands upon
  the endurance and staying powers of many of you; but I am confident
  that, in spite of excitement, fatigue, and physical strain, every
  man will carry on to the utmost of his powers until his goal is
  won; for the sake of AUSTRALIA, the Empire and our cause.

  I earnestly wish every soldier of the Corps the best of good
  fortune, and a glorious and decisive victory, the story of which
  will re-echo throughout the world, and will live for ever in the
  history of our home land.

  Cmdg. Australian Corps.

Not many days afterwards a copy of this order fell into the hands
of the enemy, and the use he tried to make of it, to his own grave
discomfiture, as the event proved, is an interesting story which will
be told in due course.

Zero hour was fixed for twenty minutes past four, on the morning
of August 8th. It needs a pen more facile than I can command to
describe, and an imagination more vivid to realize the stupendous
import of the last ten minutes. In black darkness, a hundred thousand
infantry, deployed over twelve miles of front, are standing grimly,
silently, expectantly, in readiness to advance, or are already crawling
stealthily forward to get within eighty yards of the line on which the
barrage will fall; all feel to make sure that their bayonets are firmly
locked, or to set their steel helmets firmly on their heads; Company
and Platoon Commanders, their whistles ready to hand, are nervously
glancing at their luminous watches, waiting for minute after minute
to go by--and giving a last look over their commands--ensuring that
their runners are by their sides, their observers alert, and that the
officers detailed to control direction have their compasses set and
ready. Carrying parties shoulder their burdens, and adjust the straps;
pioneers grasp their picks and shovels; engineers take up their stores
of explosives and primers and fuses; machine and Lewis gunners whisper
for the last time to the carriers of their magazines and belt boxes
to be sure and follow up. The Stokes Mortar carrier slings his heavy
load, and his loading numbers fumble to see that their haversacks of
cartridges are handy. Overhead drone the aeroplanes, and from the
rear, in swelling chorus, the buzzing and clamour of the Tanks grows
every moment louder and louder. Scores of telegraph operators sit by
their instruments with their message forms and registers ready to
hand, bracing themselves for the rush of signal traffic which will set
in a few moments later; dozens of Staff Officers spread their maps
in readiness, to record with coloured pencils the stream of expected
information. In hundreds of pits, the guns are already run up, loaded
and laid on their opening lines of fire; the sergeant is checking the
range for the last time; the layer stands silently with the lanyard in
his hand. The section officer, watch on wrist, counts the last seconds:
"A minute to go"--"Thirty seconds"--"Ten seconds"--"Fire."

And, suddenly, with a mighty roar, more than a thousand guns begin
the symphony. A great illumination lights up the Eastern horizon;
and instantly the whole complex organization, extending far back to
areas almost beyond earshot of the guns, begins to move forward; every
man, every unit, every vehicle and every Tank on their appointed
tasks and to their designated goals; sweeping onward relentlessly and
irresistibly. Viewed from a high vantage point and in the glimmer of
the breaking day, a great Artillery barrage surely surpasses in dynamic
splendour any other manifestation of collective human effort.

The Artillery barrage dominates the battle, and the landscape. The
field is speedily covered with a cloak of dust, and smoke and spume,
making impossible any detailed observation, at the time, of the course
of the battle as a whole. The story can only be indifferently pieced
together, long after, by an attempted compilation of the reports of
a hundred different participants, whose narratives are usually much
impaired by personal bias, by the nervous excitement of the moment, and
by an all too limited range of vision. That is why no comprehensive
account yet exists of some of the major battles of the war, and why
those partial narratives hitherto produced are so often in conflict.

In so great a battle as this, only the broad facts and tangible results
can be placed on record without danger of controversy. The whole
immense operation proceeded according to plan in every detail, with a
single exception, to which I must specially refer later on. The first
phase, controlled as it was by the barrage time-table, necessarily
ended punctually, and with the whole of the green line objective in our
hands. This success gave us possession of nearly all the enemy's guns,
so that his artillery retaliation speedily died down.

The captures in this phase were considerable, and few of the garrisons
of the enemy's forward offensive zone escaped destruction or capture.
The Second and Third Divisions had a comparative "walk over," and they
had come to a halt, with their tasks completed, before 7 a.m.

The "open warfare" phase commenced at twenty minutes past eight,
and both the red and the blue lines were captured in succession
half-an-hour ahead of scheduled time. This capture covered the whole
length of my front except the extreme left, where a half expected
difficulty arose, but one which exercised no influence upon the day's

The Canadians, on my right, had a similar story to tell; they had
driven far into the enemy's defences, exactly as planned. In spite of
the difficulties of observation, the recurrence of a ground mist of the
same nature as we had experienced at Hamel, and the long distances over
which messages and reports had to travel--the stream of information
which reached me, by telegraph, telephone, pigeon and aeroplane was so
full and ample that I was not left for a moment out of touch with the

The "inwards" messages are, naturally, far too voluminous for
reproduction; but a brief selection from the many "outwards" messages
telegraphed during that day to the Fourth Army Headquarters, and which,
on a point of responsibility, I made it an invariable rule to draft
myself, will give some indication of the course of events as they
became known:

  _Sent at 7 a.m._: "Everything going well at 6.45 a.m. Heavy ground
  mist facilitating our advance, but delaying information. Infantry
  and Tanks got away punctually. Our attack was a complete surprise.
  Gailly Village and Accroche Wood captured. Enemy artillery has
  ceased along my whole front. Flanks Corps apparently doing well."

  _Sent at 8.30 a.m._: "Although not definitely confirmed, no doubt
  that our first objective green line captured along whole Corps
  front including Gailly, Warfusee, Lamotte and whole Cerisy Valley.
  Many guns and prisoners taken. Infantry and Artillery for second
  phase moving up to green line."

  _Sent at 10.55 a.m._: "Fifteenth Battalion has captured Cerisy with
  300 prisoners. Advance to red line going well."

  _Sent at 11.10 a.m._: "Have taken Morcourt and Bayonvillers and
  many additional prisoners and guns. We are nearing our second
  objective and have reached it in places. My Cavalry Brigade has
  passed across our red line. We are now advancing to our final
  objective blue line."

  _Sent at 12.15 p.m._: "Hobbs has captured Harbonnières and reached
  blue line final objective on his whole front."

  _Sent at 1.15 p.m._: "Australian flag hoisted over Harbonnières
  at midday to-day. Should be glad if Chief would cable this to our
  Governor-General on behalf of Australian Corps."

  _Sent at 2.5 p.m._: "Total Australian casualties through dressing
  stations up to 12 noon under 600. Prisoners actually counted exceed
  4,000. Many more coming in."

  _Sent at 4.40 p.m._: "Captured enemy Corps H.Q. near Framerville
  shortly after noon to-day." (This was the 51st German Corps).

  _Sent at 8 p.m._: "Corps captures will greatly exceed 6,000
  prisoners, 100 guns, including heavy and railway guns, thousands of
  machine guns, a railway train, and hundreds of vehicles and teams
  of regimental transport. Total casualties for whole Corps will not
  exceed 1,200."

The vital information, which it is imperative for the Corps Commander
to have accurately and rapidly delivered throughout the course of a
battle, is that relating to the actual position, at any given moment
of time, of our front line troops; showing the locations which they
have reached, and whether they are stationary, advancing or retiring.
For it has to be remembered that the whole Artillery resources of the
Corps were pooled and kept under his own hand; and it was imperative
that any changes in the Artillery action or employment must be quickly
made, so as to extend the utmost help to any Infantry which might get
into difficulties.

Thus, for example, the failure of any body of Infantry to enter and
pass beyond a wood or a village, would be a sure indication that
such locality was still held in strength by the enemy, and it would
be appropriate to "switch" Artillery fire upon it, in order to drive
him out. But such a proceeding would be anything but prudent if the
information on which such action was to be based were already an hour

Transmission of messages from the front line troops to the
nearest telephone terminal is usually slow and uncertain, and the
retransmission of such messages, in succession, by Battalions,
Brigades and Divisions only prolongs the delay. The normal process is
in consequence far too dilatory for the exigencies of actual battle

A vastly superior method had therefore to be devised, and recourse
was had to the use of aeroplanes. The No. 3 Australian Squadron soon
acquired great proficiency in this work. They were equipped with
two-seater planes, carrying both pilot and observer, and the work was
called "Contact Patrol."

The "plane" flying quite low, usually at not more than 500 feet, the
observer would mark down by conventional signs on a map the actual
positions of our Infantry, of enemy Infantry or other facts of prime
importance, and he often had time to scribble a few informative notes
also. The "plane" then flew back at top speed to Corps H.Q., and the
map, with or without an added report, was dropped in the middle of an
adjacent field, wrapped in a weighted streamer of many colours. It was
then brought by cyclists into the Staff Office.

Relays of Contact planes were on such service all day on every battle
day, and although it was a hazardous duty few planes were lost. The
total time which elapsed between the making of the observation at the
front line and the arrival of the information in the hands of the Corps
Staff was seldom more than ten minutes.

There can be no doubt that the whole operation was a complete surprise
both to the troops opposed to us and to the German High Command.
It became abundantly clear, in the following days, that no proper
arrangements existed for rapidly reinforcing this part of the front in
the event of an attack by us, but that these had to be extemporized
after the event. This discovery points to the conclusion that the
enemy had once again come to regard the British Army as a negligible
quantity, a mistake for which he paid an even heavier price than when
he made it in the early days of the war.

As an indication that even the Divisions in the line whose duty it
primarily was to know, had no suspicions of an impending attack, comes
the story of a German medical officer who was captured in his pyjamas
in Warfusee village, and who confessed that being awakened by our
bombardment and thinking it was merely a raid, he left his dug-out to
see what was afoot, and thought he must be still dreaming when he saw
our Pioneers a few hundred feet away, busily at work repairing the main

There was only one blemish in the whole day's operations. Not serious
in relation to the whole, it nevertheless gravely hampered the work
of the left Brigade of the Fourth Division. In short, the Third Corps
Infantry failed to reach their ultimate objective line, and the enemy
remained in possession of the Chipilly spur and of all the advantages
which that possession conferred upon him.

The advance of my left flank, from the green to the red line, along the
margin of the plateau bordering the Somme, was left exposed to his full
view, while the river valley itself remained under the domination of
his rifle fire, at quite moderate ranges. But worse than all, a battery
of his Field Artillery emplaced just above the village of Chipilly
remained in action, and one after another, six of the nine Tanks which
had been allotted to the 4th Brigade were put out of action by direct
hits from these guns.

The possibility was one which had been considered and measures to meet
it were promptly taken. Maclagan, whose right Brigade in due course
reached the blue line according to programme, making in its progress a
splendid haul of prisoners and guns, took immediate steps to "refuse"
his left flank, _i.e._, to bend it back towards Morcourt, and to
establish, with a reserve battalion, a flank defence along the river,
facing north from Cerisy to Morcourt.

Both these villages were, however, successfully captured, and "mopped
up," which meant that all the enemy and machine guns lurking in them
were accounted for. But the river valley was not captured, and became,
until the situation was ultimately cleared up, a kind of No Man's Land
between the enemy still holding the Chipilly spur on the north, and the
Fourth Division on the south of the river.

The ultimate conquest of the Chipilly Bend forms no part of that
day's story. What were the reasons for the failure of the Third Corps
to complete its allotted task may have been the subject of internal
inquiry, but the result of any such was not made known. The official
report for the day was to the effect that the enemy on this front
had resisted strongly, that fighting had been fierce, and that no
progress could be made. But one is compelled to recognize that
such language was often an euphemistic method of describing faulty
Staff co-ordination, or faulty local leadership. There would be no
justification, however, for questioning the bravery of the troops

It has already been foreshadowed that the experiences on that day of
the contingent of sixteen Armoured Motor-cars under Lieutenant-Colonel
Carter would form sensational reading, and the story of August 8th
would not be complete without at least a brief reference to their

It was nearly midnight when Carter, with a Staff Officer, got back to
Corps H.Q. to render their report. They were scarcely recognizable,
covered as they were from head to feet, with grime and grease. They had
had a busy time. The substance of what they had to tell was taken down
at the time almost verbatim, and reads as follows:

  "Got Armoured Cars through to Warfusee-Abancourt. When we reached
  the other side of No Man's Land we found that the road was good
  but a number of trees (large and small) had been shot down and
  lay right across it in places. Obstacles removed by chopping up
  the smaller trees and hauling off the big ones by means of a
  Tank. Pioneers helped us to clear the road all the way down. We
  did not come up to our advancing troops until they were almost
  near the Red Line. When we got past our leading Infantry we came
  upon quite a number of Huns and dealt with them. Had then to wait
  a little on account of our barrage, but went through a light
  barrage. When we got to Blue Line we detached three sections to
  run down to Framerville. When they got there they found all the
  Boche horse transport and many lorries drawn up in the main road
  ready to move off. Head of column tried to bolt in one direction
  and other vehicles in another. Complete confusion. Our men killed
  the lot (using 3,000 rounds) and left them there; four Staff
  Officers on horseback shot also. The cars then ran down to the
  east side of Harbonnières, on the south-east road to Vauvillers,
  and met there a number of steam wagons; fired into their boilers
  causing an impassable block. Had a lot of good shooting around
  Vauvillers. Then came back to main road. Two sections of cars went
  on to Foucaucourt and came in contact with a Boche gun in a wood
  north-east of Foucaucourt. This gun blew the wheels off one car and
  also hit three others. However, three of the cars were got away.
  Two other cars went to Proyart and found a lot of troops billeted
  there having lunch in the houses. Our cars shot through the windows
  into the houses, killing quite a lot of the enemy. Another section
  went towards Chuignolles and found it full of German soldiers.
  Our cars shot them. Found rest billets and old trenches also with
  troops in them. Engaged them. Had quite a battle there. Extent of
  damage not known, but considerable. Cars then came back to main
  road. We were then well in advance of Blue Line. Everything was now
  perfectly quiet--no shell-fire of any kind.

  "I went a quarter of a mile beyond La Flaque. There was a big dump
  there, and Huns kept continually coming out and surrendering, and
  we brought quite a lot of them back as prisoners. It was then
  about 10.30 a.m. A party of Hun prisoners was detailed to tow back
  my disabled car. I saw no sign of any wired system anywhere. Old
  overgrown trenches but no organized trench system. I proceeded to
  some rising ground near Framerville. Did not go into Framerville,
  but could see that the roofs of the houses were intact. Saw no
  trace of any organized system of defence of any kind and no troops.
  My people saw no formed bodies of troops of any kind during the day
  coming towards us, but very large numbers of fugitives hastening in
  the opposite direction. Engaged as many of them as could be reached
  from the roads. I saw, from the hill, open country with a certain
  amount of vegetation on it."

The consternation and disorganization caused by the sudden onslaught of
these cars, at places fully ten miles behind the enemy's front line of
that morning, may be left to the imagination. It was a feat of daring
and resolute performance, which deserves to be remembered.

[Illustration: The Burning Villages--east of Péronne.]

[Illustration: Dummy Tank Manufacture.]

Throughout the whole day, surrenders by the enemy, particularly of
troops in rear or reserve positions, were on a wholesale scale. The
total number of live prisoners actually counted up to nightfall in
the Divisional and Corps Prisoner-of-War Cages exceeded 8,000 and the
Canadians had gathered in at least as many more.

The Australian Corps also captured 173 guns capable of being hauled
away, not counting those which had been blown to pieces. These captures
included two "railway" guns, one of 9-inch and the other of 11.2-inch
bore. The latter was an imposing affair. The gun itself rested on
two great bogie carriages, each on eight axles; it was provided
with a whole train of railway trucks fitted some to carry its giant
ammunition, others as workshops, and others as living quarters for the
gun detachment. The outfit was completed by a locomotive to haul the
gun forward to its daily task of shelling Amiens, and hauling it back
to its garage when its ugly work was done.

The captures of machine guns and of trench mortars of all types and
sizes were on so extensive a scale that no attempt was ever made to
make even an approximate count of them. They were ultimately collected
into numerous dumps, and German prisoners were employed for many weeks
in cleaning and oiling them for transport to Australia as trophies of

But the booty comprised a large and varied assortment of many other
kinds of warlike stores. The huge dumps of engineering material at
Rosières and La Flaque served all the needs of the Corps for the
remainder of the war. There were horses, wagons, lorries and tractors
by the hundred, including field searchlights, mobile pharmacies, motor
ambulances, travelling kitchens, mess carts, limbers, and ammunition
wagons, and there were literally hundreds of thousands of rounds of
artillery ammunition scattered all over the captured territory in dumps
both large and small.

For the next two days all roads leading from the battle area back
towards the Army Cage at Poulainville, where railway trains were
waiting to receive them, were congested with column after column of
German prisoners, roughly organized into companies--tangible evidences
to the civilians of the district, as to our own troops, that a great
victory had been won.

The tactical value of the victory was immense, and has never yet been
fully appreciated by the public of the Empire, perhaps because our
censorship at the time strove to conceal the intention to follow it up
immediately with further attacks. But no better testimony is needed
than that of Ludendorff himself, who calls it Germany's "black day,"
after which he himself gave up all hope of a German victory.

Ludendorff in his "Memoirs," republished in the _Times_ of August 22nd,
1919, writes:

  "August 8th was the black day of the German Army in the history
  of the war. This was the worst experience I had to go through....
  Early on August 8th, in a dense fog that had been rendered still
  thicker by artificial means, the British, mainly with Australian
  and Canadian Divisions, and French, attacked between Albert and
  Moreuil with strong squadrons of Tanks, but for the rest with
  no great superiority. They broke between the Somme and the Luce
  deep into our front. The Divisions in line allowed themselves
  to be completely overwhelmed. Divisional Staffs were surprised
  in their Headquarters by enemy Tanks" [_sic_, our armoured cars
  were meant].... "The exhausted [_sic_] Divisions that had been
  relieved a few days earlier and that were lying in the region
  south-west of Péronne were immediately alarmed and set in motion
  by the Commander-in-Chief of the Second Army. At the same time
  he brought forward towards the breach all available troops. The
  Rupprecht Army Group dispatched reserves thither by train. The
  18th Army threw its own reserves directly into the battle from the
  south-east.... On an order from me, the 9th Army too, although
  itself in danger, had to contribute. Days of course elapsed before
  the troops from a further distance could reach the spot.... It
  was a very gloomy situation.... Six or seven Divisions that were
  quite fairly to be described as effective had been completely
  battered.... The situation was uncommonly serious. If they
  continued to attack with even comparative vigour, we should no
  longer be able to maintain ourselves west of the Somme.... The
  wastage of the Second Army had been very great. Heavy toll had
  also been taken of the reserves which had been thrown in.... Owing
  to the deficit created our losses had reached such proportions
  that the Supreme Command was faced with the necessity of having
  to disband a series of Divisions, in order to furnish drafts....
  The enemy had also captured documentary material of inestimable
  value to him.... The General Staff Officer whom I had dispatched to
  the battlefield on August 8th, gave me such an account that I was
  deeply confounded.... August 8th made things clear for both Army
  Commands, both for the German and for that of the enemy."

A hole had been driven on a width of nearly twelve miles, right through
the German defence, and had blotted out, at one blow, the whole of
the military resources which it had contained. The obligation which
was thereby cast upon the enemy to throw into the gap troops and guns
hastily collected from every part of his front, imposed upon him also
an increased vulnerability at every other point which had to be so

It was no part of our programme to rest content upon our oars, and
allow the enemy time to collect himself at leisure. The resources of
the Australian Corps had suffered scarcely any impairment as the result
of that glorious day. Such small losses as had been incurred were more
than counter-balanced by the elation of these volunteer troops at this
further demonstration of their moral and physical superiority over the
professional soldiers of a militarist enemy nation.

On that very day all necessary measures were taken to maintain the
battle without pause. But, in order not to interrupt the continuity of
the story of subsequent developments, it will be convenient to mention,
in this place, two events which cannot be dissociated from the great
battle, and which will be memorable to those who participated in them.

The first was an accidental meeting together of a number of
the most distinguished figures in the war. On August 11th, the
Commander-in-Chief was to come to congratulate the Corps and to
thank the troops through their Commanders. I called the Divisional
Generals together at the Red Château at Villers-Bretonneux to meet him
that afternoon. In the meantime General Rawlinson invited his Corps
Commanders to meet him in the same village for a battle conference,
and chose the same hour and a spot in the open, under a spreading
beech, where his Generals sat informally around the maps spread upon
the grass. At this meeting were Rawlinson, Currie, Kavanagh, Godley,
myself, Montgomery and Budworth. The Field Marshal, with Laurence,
the Chief of his General Staff, on their way to the Red Château, soon
arrived. Shortly after Sir Henry Wilson, happening to pass in his car,
also joined the party; and not many moments afterwards there arrived,
again entirely without previous arrangement, Clemenceau and his Finance
Minister Klotz.

Villers-Bretonneux, only three days before reeking with gas and
unapproachable, and now delivered from its bondage, was the lodestone
which had attracted the individual members of this remarkable
assemblage; and the more serious business in hand was perforce
postponed while Rawlinson, Currie and I had to listen to the generous
felicitations of all these great war leaders.

The second event was the visit of His Majesty the King, on August 12th,
to Bertangles, when he conferred on me the honour of Knighthood, in
the presence of selected detachments of five hundred of the men who
had fought in the battle, a hundred from each of my Five Divisions.
A representative collection of guns and other war trophies had been
hauled in from the battlefield to line the avenues by which the King
approached. His Majesty was particularly interested in the German
transport horses, expressing the hope that they would soon learn the
Australian language; a pleasantry which he well remembered when I had
the honour of an audience with him, on the anniversary of that very


[15] See Map J.



The Fourth British Army had opened the great Allied counter-offensive
with a brilliant stroke. It remained to see in what fashion the Allied
High Command would proceed to exploit the victory. Would the Fourth
Army be called upon, with added resources, at once to thrust due east,
with the object of drawing upon itself the German reserves, and dealing
with them as they arrived; or would blows now be delivered on other
fronts with a view to keeping those reserves dispersed?

The immediate decision, communicated to me by the Army Commander on
the afternoon of August 8th, was that, while the whole situation was
being considered, and troop movements were in progress to enable the
necessary concentrations to be made elsewhere, the Fourth Army would
continue its advance forthwith; but that, instead of driving due east,
the thrust was to be made in a south-easterly direction.

The object was to aim at Roye, and either by the capture of that
important railway centre, or at least by the threat of its capture,
to precipitate a withdrawal by the enemy from the great salient which
he had in his April and May advances pressed into the French front
opposite Moreuil and Montdidier, a salient which could be kept supplied
by that railway alone.

The Australian Corps front on the evening of August 8th lay roughly
on a north and south line, just east of Méricourt and just west of
Vauvillers. But the Canadian Corps front bent back sharply from the
latter point in a south-westerly direction. The Canadians were,
therefore, to advance between the railway and the Amiens--Roye road to
the general line Lihons-Le Quesnoy. The rôle of the Australian Corps
was to make a defensive flank to this advance, by pivotting its left
on the Somme in the vicinity of Méricourt, but advancing its right
along the railway, in the direction of Lihons.

It was a decision which was unpalatable to me, for it condemned me to
leaving the whole of the great bend of the Somme, on which lay Bray,
Péronne and Brie, in the undisturbed possession of the enemy; and in
view of the reports sent in from the front and confirmed later by the
Armoured Cars, it appeared to me that the resumption of a vigorous
advance due east next day would give us, without fighting, possession,
or at least command, of the whole of this bend; while if we allowed the
enemy to take breath and recover from his shock, he would probably have
time to rally the fugitives, and turn again to face us.

This same great bend of the river had been the scene of two years
of sedentary warfare, in 1915 and 1916, when the French and German
artillery had converted it into a barren wilderness. It was, in
its eastern part, scored with trenches, and bristled with wire
entanglements in every direction; it was devoid of villages, woods, or
any kind of shelter--a forbidding expanse of devastation.

But between our front lines of that day and the western edge of this
wilderness, there still lay a belt of some six or seven miles of
practically unharmed country over which the retreat of our Fifth Army
in March had carried them without much fighting. I should have welcomed
an order to push on the next morning, in open warfare formation, to
gain possession of the whole of this belt, and force the enemy to make
any attempt to reorganize his line on the inhospitable ground which lay

The order stood, however; and instructions were issued for the First
Australian Division to be drawn into the fight, and to take upon
themselves the task of conforming to the advance of the Canadians along
the railway. The first phase of this advance was to have been carried
out at 11 a.m. on August 9th by the First Division passing through the
right Brigade of the Fifth Division.

The 1st Brigade of the First Australian Division had, as already
related, arrived from the North in time to participate in the fighting
of the day before; but the remaining two Brigades arrived so late,
and had to perform so long a march from their detraining station near
Amiens to our now greatly advanced battle front, that it soon became
evident that they could not arrive at the line of departure in time to
synchronize with the Canadian advance.

In consequence, the Fifth Division was instructed to detail its right
line Brigade to begin this duty; and in due course the 15th Brigade
carried out the first part of the task and advanced our line to
include the capture of Vauvillers, an operation which was successfully
completed by midday.

It will be remembered that the Second and Third Divisions had been
given a task for the previous day which was limited in time, though
not in difficulty, and that this task had been completed, as it proved
with very little stress, by 7 a.m. These Divisions had thus had a whole
day in which to rest and reorganize. The Second Division was therefore
placed under orders to participate in the advance of August 9th.

In due course, the First Division arrived at our fighting front, and
that afternoon both the First and Second Divisions advanced in battle
order, the former passing through the right Brigade of the Fifth
Division, and the latter through its left Brigade. This operation
carried our front line in this part of the field to the foot of
the Lihons hill, and gave us complete possession of the village of
Framerville. It also incidentally released the Fifth Division from
further line duty.

The opposition met with during this day's operations varied
considerably along the battle front, which extended in this part of
the field over about 6,000 yards. The Lihons ridge was found to be
strongly held, and much fire both from field guns and machine guns was
encountered. It was evident that, over-night, the enemy had succeeded
in organizing sufficient troops for the local defence of this important

Upon the front of the Second Division, however, there was little
opposition and the enemy gave up Framerville almost without a
struggle. Three Battalions of Tanks co-operated in the day's fighting,
but several of them were disabled by direct fire from Lihons. The task
assigned to the Corps for that day was, none the less, carried out in
its entirety, and by nightfall contact had been made with the Second
Canadian Division on the railway about a mile east of Rosières.

The situation on the left flank of the Australian Corps was, however,
anything but satisfactory. The Chipilly spur was still in the hands of
the enemy, all the efforts over-night on the part of the 58th Division
(Third Corps) to dislodge them having failed. General Butler, the Corps
Commander, in pursuance of arrangements come to some days before, was
to proceed on sick leave, as he had for some time been far from well;
and General Godley (my former chief of the 22nd Corps) was temporarily
to take his place. I therefore persuaded the Army Commander to avail
himself of this change to allow me to take in hand the situation at
Chipilly, and to give me, for this purpose, a limited jurisdiction over
the north bank of the Somme. This was merely getting in the thin edge
of the wedge; and not many hours later, I found myself where I had so
strongly desired to be from the first, namely, astride of the Somme

Accordingly, the 13th Australian Brigade, after a day's rest from the
anxious duty of acting as a screen for the Canadians on the eve of the
main battle, were told off to deal with the Chipilly spur. Before,
however, they could reach the locality, and in the late afternoon of
August 9th, the 131st American Regiment (of Bell's Division), which was
still under the orders of the Third Corps, very gallantly advanced in
broad daylight and took possession practically of the whole spur.

In the meantime the 13th Brigade arrived, sending a Battalion across
the Somme at Cerisy, and, joining the Americans, helped to clear up
the whole situation. This made my left flank more secure, and enabled
Maclagan to withdraw the defensive flank which he had deployed along
the river from Cerisy to Morcourt. That night I took over the 131st
American Regiment from the Third Corps, attached it, as a temporary
measure, to the Fourth Division, and placed Maclagan in charge of the
newly captured front, which extended north of the river as far as the
Corbie--Bray road.

The day ended with Divisions in the line from south to north in the
following order, viz.:--First, Second and Fourth, the last named having
been augmented by an American Regiment, having had its own 13th Brigade
restored to it, and having in exchange yielded up to the First Division
the 1st Brigade of the latter.

The Fourth Division had had comparatively much the worst of it, up to
this stage, of any of my Divisions, and I felt that they were due for
a short rest. Accordingly, I issued orders that same night for the
Third Division, which, like the Second, had been resting since the
previous forenoon, to relieve the Fourth Division on that part of the
front which lay between the Somme and the main St. Quentin road on the
following day, but for the time being leaving the newly captured ground
north of the Somme still in Maclagan's hands.

After an examination of the ground and a study of the situation, the
opportunity for a further immediate local operation, certain to gain
valuable tactical ground, and likely also to yield a good number of
prisoners, presented itself to me. A further attraction was that it
would permit of a useful advance of my left flank on the south of the
Somme. This project, being of some tactical interest, demands a short
explanatory reference to the terrain.

The river Somme, from Cerisy as far east as Péronne, flows in a
tortuous valley which describes a succession of bends, almost uniform
in size and regular in disposition. These bends face with their bases
alternately north and south, and average a depth of two miles, by a
width across the base of about a mile and a half. Each came to be known
to us by the name of one of the villages which reposed in its folds,
such as Chipilly, Etinehem, Bray, Cappy, Feuillères, and Ommiécourt;
all these have become names to be remembered in the subsequent conquest
of this part of the Somme valley.

The valley itself is in this region a mile broad; its sides are steep
and often precipitous, and the adjoining plateaus rise some 200 feet
above its bed. Through this valley winds, in ordered curves, the canal
for barge traffic; it is flanked by vast stretches of backwaters and
heavily grassed morasses, in which the river loses itself. The valley
can be traversed only by the few bridges and the lock gates of the
canal, and the causeways leading to them from either bank.

It would be difficult country for a fight on a general scale, but ideal
for guerilla warfare. The whole succession of villages clinging to
the sides of the valley were in the hands of the enemy, and in use by
him for the housing and shelter of his troops. To attack and overcome
them one by one, by fighting up the winding valley, would have been a
costly business. But it suggested itself that they might all be won by
a species of investment.

Taking any one of these U-shaped bends singly, by drawing a cordon
across its base, the whole of any enemy forces who might be occupying
the bend would be denied escape from it, except by _crossing_ the river
into the adjacent bend. But if a semi-cordon had been simultaneously
drawn across the base of that next bend also, even that loophole would
be closed, and moreover such troops as inhabited the second bend would
find themselves surrounded also.

Immediately before my left flank lay the Méricourt bend on the south of
the river and the Etinehem bend to the north of it. Both were held by
the enemy, doubtless fugitives from the great battle, who had sought
food, water and underground shelter in the numerous dug-outs which
honeycombed the sides of the valley. The design was to capture the
whole of these with little effort. It was a good plan, and only an
unforeseen accident prevented its full realization.

Early on the morning of the 10th, I summoned a conference at Maclagan's
Headquarters in Corbie, which was attended by the Commanders and
certain Brigadiers of the Third and Fourth Divisions. It was arranged
that on the north of the river, the 13th Brigade would that night get
astride of the Etinehem spur on the north, while simultaneously the
10th Brigade, by making a side sweep skirting Proyart, would advance
our line till its left rested on the river a mile east of Méricourt.

Columns were to move along defined routes, leaving the objectives
well to the flanks, and then to encircle the enemy positions. Each
column was to be accompanied by Tanks and was to move in an easterly
direction and then wheel in towards the Somme. Although Tanks had never
previously been used at night, as their utility was uncertain, it was
thought that the effect of the noise they made would lead to the speedy
collapse of the defence.

The plan succeeded to perfection on the north of the river, and the
Etinehem spur and village with all its defenders fell to us almost
without a blow. Four Tanks amused themselves by racing up and down the
main Corbie--Bray road at top speed, and the clamour they made cleared
the path for the marching infantry.

On the south, however, just after nightfall, a sudden onslaught by a
flight of enemy bombing planes, threw the head of the 10th Brigade
column into confusion, and its Commander was killed. Two of the
Tanks were also disabled by direct hits from Artillery. This delayed
the progress of the operation, and the next day broke with the task
uncompleted. The 9th and 11th Brigades were, however, at once sent up
to reinforce, and during the following day all three Brigades completed
the operation by possessing themselves of the villages of Méricourt and
Proyart and the woods adjoining the river.

This series of local operations yielded some 300 prisoners, and
entirely cleared up the confused and unsatisfactory situation which had
existed on my left flank, as the aftermath of the Chipilly spur failure
of the first day. It also brought my line up more square to the Somme,
and so somewhat shortened my already expanding front. But my left flank
was at last quite secure.

I must now turn to the extreme right flank, which was, on this same
day, also the scene of very severe fighting. I have related the
progress of the First Division to the foot of the Lihons ridge the
night before. On August 10th and 11th the advance was continued by the
First and Second Divisions in sympathy with the advance of the Canadian
Corps on the south of the railway. There were only a few Tanks left
available to assist in this advance; and the resistance of the enemy in
the neighbourhood of Lihons had stiffened considerably.

The devastated area had already been reached by us in this part of
the field, and the terrain was a labyrinth of old trenches, and a sea
of shell-holes; the remains of old wire entanglements spread in every
direction, and the whole area had been covered by a rank growth of
thistles and brambles. It furnished numerous harbours for machine-guns,
and it was country over which it was difficult to preserve the
semblance of an organized battle formation during an advance.

The enemy fought hard and determinedly to retain Lihons, and in some
parts of the line the battle swayed to and fro. But before the morning
was well advanced, we had taken possession of the whole of the Lihons
Knoll, of Auger Wood, and of the villages of Lihons and Rainecourt,
while the Canadians had passed through Chilly just south of the
railway. All that afternoon the enemy made repeated counter-attacks,
particularly directed against Lihons and Rainecourt; but they were all
successfully driven off by rifle and machine-gun fire without the loss
of any ground.

It was a great feat to the credit of the First Australian Division, and
ranks among its best performances during the war. Some 20 field-guns
and hundreds of machine-guns were captured. Such a battle, with such
results, would, in 1917, have been placarded as a victory of the first
magnitude. Now, with the new standards set up by the great battle of
August 8th, it was reckoned merely as a local skirmish.

General Currie, operating on my right, had had a similar experience
of slow, although definite, progress, against hourly stiffening
opposition, and the fighting by the methods of open warfare was growing
daily more costly. The enemy had recovered from his first surprise,
our resources in Tanks had been greatly diminished, and much of our
heavy Artillery had not yet had time to get into its forward positions.
In other words, the possibility of further cheap exploitation of the
success of August 8th had come to an end.

It was decided, therefore, to recommend to the Army Commander that a
temporary halt should be called on the line thus reached, and that
rested troops should be brought up to relieve the line Divisions.
He concurred and decided that we should prepare for the delivery on
August 15th of another combined "set-piece" blow, which would have the
probable effect of again putting the enemy on the run, so that the
moving battle could be resumed.

This plan was never actually carried into effect, for reasons which
did not at once appear. But it transpired later that General Currie
had made very strong private representations to the Fourth Army
against the plan. He questioned the wisdom of expending the resources
of the Canadian Corps upon an attempt to repeat, over such broken
country, covered as it was with entanglements and other obstacles,
the great success of August 8th. He urged that the Canadian Corps
should be transferred back to the Arras district--which they knew so
well. It was country lending itself admirably to operations requiring
careful organization, which none understood better than Currie and his
admirable Staff.

It was an issue in which I was not greatly concerned, for my share
in the proposed operation of August 15th was to be quite subsidiary.
It was to consist merely in once again advancing my right flank, in
sympathy with the Canadian advance, as far as to include Chaulnes Hill
and the very important railway junction at that town. In ignorance of
the fact that the matter was under discussion, I prepared complete
plans for the co-operation of the Australian Corps, and detailed the
Fourth and Fifth Australian Divisions to carry them out. Fortunately,
before any actual executive action had been initiated, orders came that
the project was to be abandoned.

It soon became known that still larger questions were being discussed.
The British front, which in July reached south as far only as
Villers-Bretonneux, had now been extended to the latitude of Roye.
The Field Marshal was urging reduction, so as to liberate Divisions
for offensive operations elsewhere, and Marshal Foch agreed that, as
by the elimination of the Soissons salient the French front had been
shortened, this could be done. In due course confidential announcements
were made that, as soon as it could be arranged, the Canadians would be
withdrawn from the line, and their places taken by French troops. This
would once again make my Corps the south flank Corps of the British
Army, and I would junction with the French on the Lihons Hill.

The halt thus called gave me breathing time to consider a thorough
reorganization of my whole Corps front. This had, by August 12th, again
grown to a total length of over 16,000 yards. This increase had been
the result, firstly, of my having, as narrated, taken over ground to
the north of the Somme, secondly, by reason of the fact that during
the advances of the last four days my right had hugged the railway,
while my left had continued to rest on the Somme, two lines which were
rapidly diverging from each other, and thirdly, because my front line
now lay sharply oblique to my general line of advance.

Even with a fifth Division, which I now had at my disposal, a front of
16,000 yards was far too attenuated for Corps operations on the grand
scale, and even for more localized operations, by one or two Divisions
at a time, there was little opportunity to provide the troops with
adequate intervals of rest. I therefore strongly urged upon General
Rawlinson either a shortening of my front, or a further increase in my

He chose the latter alternative, and on August 12th placed under my
orders, provisionally, the 17th British Division (Major-General P. R.
Robertson), coupled with the condition that while it might be employed
as a line Division, it was not to be used for offensive operations. The
reason, confidentially given, was that it was shortly to be employed in
a large scale offensive in course of preparation by the Third British

It was, for me, a most opportune measure of relief from a difficult
situation; for the Third Australian Division was now also badly in need
of a rest. Prior to the great advance, it had been longest of any of
the Divisions in the line, and had subsequently had a hard time in
fighting its way forward from Méricourt to Proyart. It was therefore
relieved in the line on August 13th by the 17th Division and went into
Corps Reserve.

On the same day I put into effect a project of organization which the
necessities of the case forced upon me. North of the river stood the
13th Australian Brigade, and the 131st American Regiment, both still
under the command of General Maclagan, the remainder of whose Division
was resting, and this Division might be required at short notice for
operations at a totally different part of the front. (I had, in fact,
earmarked it for the proposed attack on August 15th to which I have

To overcome this anomalous position, I decided to constitute, for a
brief period, an independent force, composed of the two units north
of the river which I have named, to appoint to the command of it
Brigadier-General Wisdom (of the 7th Brigade), and to supply him with
a nucleus Staff, some Artillery, and supply and signal services. It
became, in fact, to all intents and purposes, an additional Division
with a Headquarters directly responsible to me.

This force received the name of "Liaison Force" and continued in
existence for about eight days. Its functions were to keep tactical
touch and liaison with the Third Corps, to protect my left flank
by guarding the Etinehem spur from recapture, and to act as a kind
of loose link between the two Corps, advancing its northern or its
southern flanks, or both, in sympathy with any forward movement to
be made by either Corps. While, during its existence as a separate
force, no operations of first magnitude took place, yet the Liaison
Force served me well in the very useful function of a custodian of my
tactical ownership of the Somme valley, an ownership which I succeeded
in retaining to the immense advantage of the operations of the Corps
less than three weeks later.

By August 13th, therefore, my responsibilities included the control
of seven separate Divisions as well as all the Corps Troops, and Army
Troops attached. The next week was occupied in local operations by
the front line Divisions to straighten our front, and to dispose of
a number of strong points, small woods, and village ruins which, so
long as they were in enemy hands, were a source of annoyance to us. The
attitude of the enemy was alert but not aggressive, and an important
point was that he showed every desire to stand his ground, and to
contest our further advance. There was as yet no indication of any
comprehensive withdrawal out of the great river bend. Each day brought
its useful toll of prisoners, all of whom, however, corroborated the
view that the enemy meant to hold on, and that the troops opposing us
were more than a mere rearguard intended to delay our advance.

The period from August 13th to 20th was also occupied in carrying
out a number of inter-divisional reliefs--events of merely technical
interest to the student of military history, but imposing an immense
amount of detailed work upon the Staff of the Corps and upon the
Commanders and Staffs of the Divisions concerned. It was my own special
responsibility, and one which I could not delegate, to decide the date
of the relief of each Division and by which other Division it should be
relieved. Such decisions involved a close inquiry into, and a just and
humane appreciation of the condition of the troops, almost from hour
to hour every day, a duty in the discharge of which I was able to rely
upon the loyal help of the Divisional Commanders and Brigadiers.

The time that had elapsed since last they had rested, the marching
they had since done, the fighting they had undertaken and its nature,
the mental and physical stress which they had undergone, and the
probable nature and date of their future employment were all factors
which had to be weighed carefully, and set against the advantages or
disadvantages of cutting short the period of rest of the troops who
were available to relieve them. It was a function which had to be
exercised, at all times, with the greatest circumspection, and the
strictest justice; for troops are very ready to acquire the impression
that they are being called upon to do more than their fair share.

[Illustration: MAP C.]

An actual inter-divisional relief usually occupied two nights and the
intervening day. Incoming units, both fighting and technical, had to
be shown all over the sector, to be taught the dispositions and the
exact situation in front of us; maps, orders and photographs had to be
explained and handed over; stores and dumps had to be inventoried and
receipts passed; while on the other hand the outgoing troops expected
to find their billets, offices, stables, wagon lines, bathing-places
and entertainment rooms in the rear area all allocated and ready for
their occupation.

Each such mutual relief meant the movement of upwards of 20,000 men,
and separate roads had to be allotted for their use. Frequently in
so large a Corps as this, two such inter-divisional reliefs would
synchronize or overlap, and the danger of congestion and the Staff work
necessary to avoid it would be thereby more than doubled. And all this
work would have to go on smoothly even if the Corps front were in the
throes of an actual battle at the time.

Although much of the routine of such reliefs, which had become almost a
ritual during the preceding years of trench warfare, was now scrapped,
it is a matter of pride to the Australian Corps and its Divisions, that
all such relief operations, even amid all the stress of these busy
fighting months of August and September, were, until the end, carried
out with precision, freedom from irritating hitches, and a minimum of
stress on the troops.

The decisions which had to be given regarding the times and
alternations of these Divisional reliefs became from now on really of
basic importance, and affected the main framework of the whole of my
future plans. It was no longer merely a question of earmarking certain
Divisions for a specified single operation; but of planning, many
days ahead, the rotation in which the Divisions were to be employed
in a continuous series of operations. I regarded it as a fundamental
principle to employ whenever possible absolutely fresh and rested
troops for an operation of any magnitude or importance. To carry such a
principle into effect involved the necessity of making the best surmise
that was possible as to the course of events a week or even two weeks

As I shall endeavour to make clear in the course of the following
pages, the really outstanding and exceptional features of the work
of the Corps in its last sixty days were the sustained vigour of its
fighting, and the unbroken continuity of its collective effort. Those
results would clearly depend more on the manner in which the resources
in troops were manipulated than upon any other factor. Each Division
had to be kept employed until the last ounce of effort, consistent with
speedy recovery, had been yielded, and each Division had to rest a
sufficient time to enable it fully to recover its spirit and tone, and
yet had to be ready by the time it was wanted.

The fulfilment of such conditions involved, as a little reflection
will show, a great deal more than a mere mechanical rotation of
employment; for the problem was, always to have available an adequate
supply of sufficiently rested troops for a prospective demand which,
although varying always in accordance with the changing situation, had
nevertheless to be predicted or conjectured.

August 21st found our front line much about the same as that of August
13th, although generally more advanced and straightened out. The Corps
frontage was still over 16,000 yards, and upon the completion of the
series of reliefs to which I have alluded the dispositions of the Corps
were as follows: The Fourth Australian Division from Lihons to just
south of Herleville, the 32nd British Division opposite Herleville, the
Fifth Australian Division in front of Proyart, and the Third Australian
Division on the north of the river. The First and Second Divisions were
in Corps Reserve, the former having by then had a good rest from its
Lihons fighting. The Liaison Force had been broken up; and the 32nd
British Division (Major-General T. S. Lambert) had joined my command in
substitution for the 17th Division, which had been withdrawn to join
the Third Army.

Such was the situation of the Australian Corps, when on August 21st
the short period of comparative inactivity came to a close, and it
was destined soon to go forward to further decisive events. On the
previous day the French opened a great attack in the south, which
yielded 10,000 prisoners on the first day, and on the day in question
the Third British Army delivered north of Albert the attack which
had been expected for some days. Thus the enemy would have his hands
full in endeavouring to parry those fresh blows; and the time seemed
appropriate for another stroke on the front of the Fourth Army.



Allusion has been made to the great bend which occurs in the course of
the River Somme. It is indeed a geographical circumstance which must be
borne in mind, if the phraseology current at this epoch in the war is
to be clearly comprehended.

The river flows in an almost due northerly direction from the
neighbourhood of Roye as far as Péronne, and then bends quite sharply,
at that locality, in a western direction, past Bray, Corbie and Amiens,
towards the sea, beyond Abbeville. In the story of the fighting of
the period from March to August we have been concerned only with that
portion of the river valley which ran parallel to our line of advance;
but interest will henceforth focus itself largely upon that other reach
of the Somme which runs on a north and south line, upstream, from the
town of Péronne.

This latter stretch of the river lies squarely athwart the direction in
which the Corps had been advancing, and the obstacle to that advance
which the river would presently constitute was continued in a northerly
direction from Péronne by an unfinished work of a great canalization
scheme to be called the "Canal du Nord." This canal was already wide
and deep, and formed a tactical obstacle of some significance, for the
excavations incidental to this project had been almost completed before
the war.

The "line of the Somme," as it was understood in the tactical
discussions of the period now to be dealt with, meant, in short, the
line formed by that part of the river which lay upstream (_i.e._, to
the south of Péronne), and the continuation northwards of that line
by the Canal du Nord. Both features being military obstacles, they
and the highlands to the east of them together afforded an eminently
suitable continuous line on which the enemy might, if he were permitted
to do so, establish himself in a defensive attitude in order to bar our
eastward progress.

The autumn was upon us; not more than another eight or nine weeks of
campaigning weather could be relied upon. A quite definite possibility
existed that the enemy might be able to put forth so powerful an effort
to contest our further advance, inch by inch, that he would gain
sufficient time to prepare the line of the Somme for a stout defence,
and hold us up until the arrival of winter compelled a suspension of
large operations.

There were at that time, indeed, some who contended that as we had
apparently succeeded in putting an end to the German offensive we
should rest content with the year's work; that our soundest strategy
would be to permit the enemy to take up such a line of defence;
and then quietly to wait over the winter until 1919 for the full
development of the American effort, now only in its inception.

So far, the enemy had given no indication of any readiness to undertake
a precipitate withdrawal from the great bend west of the Somme. On the
contrary, his resistance had stiffened to such an extent that little
further progress was to be hoped for from the methods of open warfare
which I had employed since August 8th.

If, however, another powerful blow could be delivered, to be followed
by energetic exploitation, it was quite possible that the enemy might
be hustled across the Somme, that this might be achieved at such a rate
that I could gain a firm footing on the east bank, and that thereby the
value to him of the line of the Somme, as a winter defence, might be

This was the very project on which I now embarked. The First Division
was in Corps Reserve, had rested and was fresh. The 32nd Division had
only just come into the line. By handing over a substantial sector to
the French, my frontage south of the Somme was about to be shortened
to 7,000 yards, a very suitable front for a deliberate attack by two

I held a conference at Fouilloy, near Corbie, in the afternoon of
August 21st to announce the plan, and to settle all details with the
Commanders and services concerned. The Infantry assault was to be
entrusted to Glasgow and Lambert, attacking side by side; but the
former had allotted to him much the larger share of the battle front,
at the northern end, the corollary rôle of the 32nd Division being to
seize Herleville and carry our line just to the east of it.

The date of the attack was fixed for August 23rd, and the Second and
Fifth Divisions were warned to be in readiness to come into the line
a day or two after the battle, in order to commence immediately the
process of keeping the enemy on the run, and hustling him clean out of
the river bend and across the line of the Somme.

The conference of that day was of special interest, in that I had to
deal with two Divisions which had not participated in any of those
Corps Conferences, previously held, which had initiated a fully
organized Corps operation. The Commanders and Staffs were strangers
to each other and, some of them, to me and my Staff. Nearly all of
them were yet unfamiliar with the special methods of the Corps. The
conference was therefore a lengthy one, for many problems of tactical
mechanism, which had been settled in connection with the preceding
battles of Hamel and August 8th, had to be reopened and elucidated.

These regular battle conferences were in the Australian Corps an
innovation from the time the command of it devolved upon me. They
proved a powerful instrument for the moulding of a uniformity of
tactical thought and method throughout the command. They brought
together men who met face to face but seldom, and they permitted
of an exhaustive and educative interchange of views. They led to a
development of "team-work" of a very high order of efficiency.

The work of preparing for, and the actual conduct of, these conferences
was always a very arduous business; but they more than repaid me for
the effort they entailed. They served two paramount purposes. They
enabled me to apply the requisite driving force to all subordinates
collectively, instead of individually, and thereby created a
responsive spirit which was competitive. In addition, each Commander or
Service had the advantage not only of receiving instructions regarding
his own action, but also of hearing in full detail the instructions
conveyed to his colleagues. He knew, not merely what his colleagues had
to do, but also knew that they had been told what to do; and he had an
opportunity of considering the effect of their action on his own.

The senior representative of the Heavy Artillery, Tank and Air Services
invariably attended, and listened to all the points discussed with the
Divisions, and the Divisional Commanders heard all matters arranged
with these services. In this way, each arm acquired in the most direct
manner a steadily expanding knowledge of the technology of all the
other arms.

My reason for emphasizing these matters in the present context is that,
on this particular occasion, an attempt was to be made to carry out a
major Corps operation at little more than thirty-six hours' notice; and
the Division which was to have assigned to it the principal rôle was
still in Corps Reserve and a day's march from the battle front.

That, in spite of these handicaps, the battle proved brilliantly
successful is a testimony to the valuable part which these Corps
conferences played in securing rapid and efficiently co-ordinated
action; a result which would, I am confident, have been unattainable
under the stated conditions by the mere issue of formal written orders.

Although only two out of the seven Divisions of the Corps were to
participate in this operation, it was my intention to employ, for
the full assistance of the Infantry, the whole resources of the
Corps in Artillery, Tanks and Aircraft. That was a principle which I
always regarded as fundamental, and one from which I never permitted
any exception to be made, although the pressure upon me to rest a
substantial portion of these ancillary services was always very great.

The general plan for the battle ran briefly as follows. The 32nd
Division would attack with one Infantry Brigade, under a barrage, on
a frontage of 1,000 yards; the capture of the village of Herleville,
which was still strongly held, being its principal objective.

The 1st Australian Division would attack on a frontage of 4,500 yards,
with two Brigades in line, and one Brigade in reserve. The attack would
be carried out in three phases.

The first phase was a normal assault, under an Artillery barrage, and
with the assistance of Tanks, to a predetermined line, which would
carry us beyond the Chuignes Valley; the second phase was in the nature
of exploitation by the two line Brigades, but was expressly limited to
a maximum distance of 1,000 yards beyond the main first objective.

The third phase was to be contingent upon the complete success of
the preceding phases, and would consist of an advance by the Reserve
Brigade for a further exploitation of success, by the seizure of the
whole of the Cappy bend of the river, including the towering hill close
to the Somme Canal known as Froissy Beacon.

All arrangements for the forthcoming battle having thus been completed,
the First Division duly relieved the Fifth Division on the night of
August 21st, and hastened forward its preparations for the attack,
which had been fixed for 4.45 a.m. on August 23rd.

In the meantime, the first attack which any British Army other than the
Fourth had made since August 8th was at last launched on August 21st
along the whole front of the Third British Army, northwards from Albert.

It has come to be an article of faith that the whole of the successive
stages of the great closing offensive of the war had been the subject
of most careful timing, and of minute organization on the part of the
Allied High Command, and of our own G.H.Q. Much eulogistic writing
has been devoted to an attempted analysis of the comprehensive and
far-reaching plans which resulted in the delivery of blow upon blow,
in a prescribed order of time and for the achievement of definite
strategical or tactical ends.

[Illustration: The Canal and Tunnel at Bellicourt--looking north.]

[Illustration: The Hindenburg Line--a characteristic belt of sunken

All who played any part in these great events well know that it
was nothing of the kind; that nothing in the nature of a detailed
time-table to control so vast a field of effort was possible. All
Commanders, and the most exalted of them in a higher degree even
than those wielding lesser forces, became opportunists, and bent
their energies, not to the realization of a great general plan for a
succession of timed attacks, but upon the problem of hitting whenever
and wherever an opportunity offered, and the means were ready to hand.

In these matters it was the force of circumstances which controlled
the sequence of events, and nothing else. An elaborate time-table
controlled by definite dates and sequences for the successive
engagement of a series of Armies would have been quite impossible of
realization. Even a Corps Commander had difficulty in forecasting
within a day or two when he would be ready to launch an attack on any
given part of the front. For an Army Commander it was a matter of a
week or even two.

All attempted time-tables were controlled by our Artillery
requirements; both the assembling of the necessary guns--often drawn
from distant fronts--and the accumulating of the requisite "head" of
ammunition to see a battle through, were processes whose duration could
only be very roughly forecasted.

The dumping, in the gun pits and in ammunition stores, of the necessary
500 or 600 rounds per gun meant days of labour in collection and
distribution on the part of the railways and motor lorries. The
breakdown of a few motor lorries at a critical time, or the dropping
of a single bomb upon an important railway junction, were disturbing
factors quite sufficient to have arrested the flow of ammunition, and
to have postponed, indefinitely, any programme based upon its prompt

It will be obvious, therefore, that no reliance could be placed, days
or weeks beforehand, upon a given attack taking place on a given day;
therefore no plans could be made which depended upon such attacks
taking place in a predetermined sequence.

Shortly put, therefore, the decisions of the High Command were
confined to questions such as where an attack should be made, in
what direction, and by what forces. The date was always a matter of
uncertainty, and the only control that could be exercised was by
postponement, and never by acceleration.

For the greater part of the offensive period it was therefore
necessarily left to the Commanders of the Armies to conform to a
general policy of attack, the time and method being left to their
own decision or recommendation. And they, in turn, relied upon their
Corps Commanders to seize the initiative in the pursuit of such a
policy. Naturally, the Army at all times made every effort to secure
co-ordinated action by its several Corps; but it rarely happened that
more than one Corps at a time carried through the main effort--the
other Corps performing subsidiary rôles. The great battle of September
29th to October 1st, which completed the final rupture of the
Hindenburg line, was, however, a signal exception to this rule.

The attack by the Third British Army on August 21st is a case which
illustrates the delays inseparable from battle preparations. The
project of such an attack had already been mooted on August 11th, when
General Byng (Third Army) paid me a visit to discuss my battle plan
of August 8th, and I gathered on that occasion that he hoped to begin
within four or five days. The event showed that the operation actually
took ten days to materialize. No criticism is suggested. The conditions
of transport of troops and munitions doubtless made its earlier
realization quite impossible.

The attack coming when it did, however, considerably eased the
situation of the Fourth Army, upon whose front Ludendorff had flung all
his available reserves, drawn from all parts of the German front, in
his endeavours to bring the Australians and Canadians to a halt.

He was now suddenly confronted with the prospect of another "break
through" in a different part of his line, and the German people had
been taught by their press correspondents to believe that a "break
through" was the one thing most to be resisted by the German Supreme
Command, and the one thing impossible of achievement by us.

There can be no doubt, therefore, that the success of the Third Army
on August 21st, although not comparable in its results with the battle
of August 8th, did materially assist the prospects of my own success in
the operations upon which I was then embarking.

The immediate effect of it was already felt the very next day. For the
Third Corps, which was still the left flank Corps of the Fourth Army,
and which had made very little progress since August 8th, was enabled
to advance its line a little past Albert and Meaulte.

The Third Australian Division, which, it will be remembered, had
taken over the front and the rôle of the now disbanded Liaison Force,
participated, by arrangement, in this attack and, swinging up its left,
brought my front line, north of the river, square to the Somme Valley,
and just to the forward slopes of the high plateau overlooking Bray
and La Neuville. The Third Pioneer Battalion at once got to work on
restoring the broken crossings over the Somme, to the south of Bray,
and put out a series of advanced posts upon the left bank of the river,
which gave us practical control of the great island on which stands La

Meanwhile, on the left flank of the 9th Brigade, which had carried
out the Third Divisional attack, there was serious trouble. The enemy
counter-attacked in the late afternoon. The 9th Brigade stood firm;
but the 47th Division (of the Third Corps) yielded ground, leaving the
flank of the 9th Brigade in the air. A chalk pit, which we had seized,
formed a welcome redoubt which enabled the 33rd Battalion to hang on
for sufficiently long to permit of the 34th Battalion coming up to form
a defensive flank, facing north.

In this way the gallant 9th Brigade (Goddard) was able to retain the
whole of its gains of that day; but the risk of an immediate further
advance was too great while the situation to the north remained obscure
and unsatisfactory. The capture of the village of Bray, which was still
strongly held by the enemy, had, therefore, to be postponed, although
it had been part of my plan to capture it that same day as a measure of
precaution, seeing that I calculated upon being able the next day to
advance my line south of the Somme to a point well to the east of Bray.

The great attack by the First Division supported by the 32nd Division,
which has come to be known as the battle of Chuignes, was launched at
dawn on August 23rd, and was an unqualified success.

The main valley of the Somme in this region is flanked by a number of
tributary valleys, which run generally in a north and south direction,
extending back from the river four or five miles. They are broad,
with heavily-wooded sides, and harbour a number of villages, such as
Proyart, Chuignolles, Herleville and Chuignes, which cluster on their

One such valley, larger and longer than any of those which, in our
previous advances, we had yet crossed, lay before our front line of
that morning, and square across our path. It ran from Herleville,
northwards, past Chuignes, to join the Somme in the Bray bend. It
was the most easterly of all the tributary valleys to which I have
referred, and it was also the last piece of habitable country before
the devastated area of 1916 was reached, just a mile to the east of it.

The valley afforded excellent cover for the enemy's guns, and the
expectation was that some of them would be overrun by our attack. It
was also ideal country for machine-gun defence, for the numerous woods,
hedges and copses afforded excellent cover, and had in all probability
been amply fortified with barbed wire. It was a formidable proposition
to attack such a position on such a frontage with only two Brigades.

The 2nd Brigade (Heane) attacked on the right, the 1st Brigade (Mackay)
on the left, and the first phase was completed to time-table, with the
green objective line, located on the east side of the long valley,
in our possession. The only temporary hitch in the advance along the
whole front was at Robert Wood, where the enemy held out, and had to be
completely enveloped from both flanks before surrendering.

Then came the second phase, and no difficulty was experienced in
advancing our line 1,000 yards east of the green line, nor in
establishing there a firm line of outposts for the night.

The third phase presented a great deal more difficulty than I had
anticipated. It was to have been undertaken by the 3rd Brigade
(Bennett) pushing without delay through the 1st Brigade, and advancing
in open warfare formation north-easterly towards Cappy, for the seizure
of Hill 90, overlooking that village and on the south-west of it, and
terminating at its northern extremity in the high bluff of Froissy

There was, however, some unexplained delay in the initiation of this
advance, and it was not until about 2 o'clock that the 3rd Brigade
moved forward to the assault of the long slope of the Chuignes Valley,
which still lay before them in this part of the field. The enemy, under
the impression that our attack had spent itself, had occupied the
plateau in great strength, and at first little progress could be made.

Mobile Artillery was, however, promptly pushed up, and this proved
of great assistance to the infantry. Garenne Wood, on the top of the
plateau, into which large numbers of the enemy had withdrawn, proved
a difficult obstacle, and incapable of capture by frontal attack.
It, too, was conquered by enveloping tactics, and with its fall the
resistance of the enemy rapidly subsided, and the 3rd Brigade had the
satisfaction of hunting the fugitives clean off the plateau into the
Cappy Valley.

The whole of this phase of the battle was an especially fine piece
of work on the part of the Regimental Officers. It was open warfare
of the most complete character, and the victory was won by excellent
battle control on the part of the Battalion Commanders, by splendid
co-operation between the four Battalions of the Brigade, and by
intelligent and gallant leadership on the part of the Company and
Platoon Commanders.

Beset as I had been by many anxieties during the early afternoon as
to how the Third Brigade would fare in the difficult task which had
been given it, rendered more difficult by the delay of which I have
spoken, I had the satisfaction that night of contemplating a victory
far greater than I had calculated upon.

For the 32nd Division had successfully captured Herleville, and the
First Division had seized the whole country for a depth of 1½ miles
up to a line extending from Herleville to the western edge of Cappy.
The whole Chuignes Valley was ours. By its capture the enemy had been
despoiled of all habitable areas, and had been relegated to a waste of
broken and ruined country between us and the line of the Somme.

We took that day 21 guns and over 3,100 prisoners from ten different
regiments. The slaughter of the enemy in the tangled valleys was
considerable, for our Infantry are always vigorous bayonet fighters.
They received much assistance from the Tanks in disposing of the
numerous machine gun detachments which held their ground to the last.

It was a smashing blow, and far exceeded in its results any previous
record in my experience, having regard to the number of troops engaged.
Its immediate result, the same night, was the capture of Bray by the
Third Division, north of the river, thus completing the work of that
Division which the failure of the 47th Division on their left the day
before had compelled them to leave unfinished. The 40th Battalion took
200 prisoners, with trifling loss to themselves.

A more remote result, which made itself apparent in the next few days,
was that it compelled the enemy to abandon all hope of retaining a hold
of any country west of the line of the Somme; it impelled him at last
to an evacuation of the great bend of the river, a process which he
began in a very few days.

Such was the battle of Chuignes. Much of the success of this brilliant
engagement was due to the personality of the Divisional Commander,
Major-General Glasgow. He had commenced his career in the war as a
Major of Light Horse, and had participated in the earliest stages of
the fighting on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Speedily gaining promotion during that campaign, his outstanding merits
as a leader gained him an appointment to the command of the 13th
Brigade, when the latter was formed in Egypt in the spring of 1916. For
two years he led that Brigade through all its arduous experiences on
the Somme, at Messines and in the third battle of Ypres.

This fine record was but the prelude to the history-making
performances of the 13th Brigade in 1918 at Dernancourt and
Villers-Bretonneux, and Glasgow seemed easily the most promising, among
all the Brigadiers of that time, as a prospective Divisional Commander:
a judgment which fully justified itself.

Of strong though not heavy build and of energetic demeanour, Glasgow
succeeded not so much by exceptional mental gifts, or by tactical
skill of any very high order, as by his personal driving force and
determination, which impressed themselves upon all his subordinates.
He always got where he wanted to get--was consistently loyal to the
Australian ideal, and intensely proud of the Australian soldier.

The number of prisoners captured on this day, and the total numbers of
the enemy encountered in the course of an advance which was relatively
small, pointed to a disposition of troops which was unusual on the part
of the enemy.

According to the principles so strongly emphasized by Ludendorff,
in instructions which he had issued, and copies of which duly fell
into my hands, there was to be, in his scheme of defensive tactics,
a "fore-field" relatively lightly held by outposts and machine guns.
The main line of resistance was to be well in rear, and there the main
concentration of troops was to be effected.

Why had this dictum been so widely disregarded on this occasion? It was
a question worthy of close inquiry, and two German Battalion Commanders
who were captured by us on that day supplied the answer.

Reference has already been made to the message which I issued to the
Corps on the eve of the great opening battle; and to the fact that a
copy of this message had fallen into the hands of the enemy, probably
by the capture of an officer in the close fighting which took place at
Lihons on August 9th and 10th.

In due course the substance of this message was published in the German
wireless news, and in the German press of the time, but cleverly
mistranslated to convey a colouring desirable for the German public.

It so happened that not long before the opening of our offensive I
had, at the request of the authorities, sent to Australia a recruiting
cable, which appealed to the Australian public for a maintenance of
supplies of fighting men.[16] That the full text of this cable also
became speedily known to the enemy is a testimony to the far-flung
alertness of their Intelligence Service. It, also, was published in
their press.

Basing their editorial comments on this material, the _Berliner
Tageblatt_ of August 17th, 1918, a copy of which I captured, and
another journal whose name was not ascertainable, because in the copy
captured the title had been torn off, both indulged in arguments, which
were long, and intended to be convincing, to prove to the German people
that I had promised my troops a "break-through;" that I had failed, and
that, admittedly, the "proud" Australian Corps had been shattered, had
come to the end of its resources and was no longer to be taken into
calculation as an instrument of attack by the "English."

It was perfectly legitimate, if clumsy, propaganda. But it was a
curious example of a propaganda which recoiled upon the heads of its
propounders. The Battalion Commanders, who, like all German officers
whom we captured, were always voluble in excuses for their defeat,
pleaded that they had been deceived by the utterances of their own
journals into believing that the Australian offensive effort had come
to an end, once and for all, and that no further attack by this Corps
was possible.

[Illustration: MAP D]

It was this belief which, they said, had prompted their respective
Divisions (for each of them represented a separate one) to disregard
Ludendorff's prescription; their Divisional Generals had felt justified
in availing themselves of the very excellent living quarters which
existed in the Chuignes Valley, near the German front line of August
22nd, to quarter all their support and reserve Battalions.

It was there that we found them--increasing the population of the front
zone far beyond that which we had been accustomed to find. Was there
ever a more diverting example of a propaganda which recoiled upon those
who uttered it? Intended to deceive the German public, it ended in
deceiving the German front line troops, to their own lamentable undoing.

Among the captures of the battle of Chuignes, which, as usual,
comprised a large and varied assortment of warlike stores, including
another great dump of engineering materials near Froissy Beacon, and
two complete railway trains, was the monster naval gun of 15-inch bore,
which had been so systematically bombarding the city of Amiens, and had
wrought such havoc among its buildings and monuments.

It was first reached by the 3rd Australian Battalion (1st Brigade)
during a bayonet charge which cleared Arcy Wood, in the shelter of
which the giant gun had been erected. An imposing amount of labour had
been expended upon its installation, and the most cursory examination
of the effort involved was sufficient to make it evident that the enemy
entertained no expectation of ever being hurled back from the region
which it dominated.

The gun with its carriage, platform and concrete foundations weighed
over 500 tons. It was a naval gun, obviously of the type in use on
the German Dreadnoughts, and never intended by its original designers
for use on land. It had a range of over twenty-four miles, fired a
projectile weighing nearly a ton, and the barrel was seventy feet long.

It had been installed with the elaborate completeness of German
methods. A double railway track, several miles long, had been built
to the site, for the transport of the gun and its parts. It was
electrically trained and elevated. Its ammunition was handled and
loaded by mechanical means. The adjacent hill-side had been tunnelled
to receive the operating machinery, and the supplies of shells,
cartridges and fuses.

The gun and its mounting, when captured, were found to have been
completely disabled. A heavy charge of explosive had burst the chamber
of the gun, and had torn off the projecting muzzle end, which lay with
its nose helplessly buried in the mud. The giant carriage had been
burst asunder, and over acres all around was strewn the debris of the

For some time, some of my gunner experts favoured the theory that the
gun had burst accidentally, but the view which ultimately prevailed was
that the demolition had been intentional. Many months afterwards, the
full story of the gun and its performances was elicited from a prisoner
who had belonged to the No. 4 (German) Heavy Artillery Regiment, and it
was circumstantial enough to be credible.

The story is worthy of repetition, not only because no authentic
account of this wonderful trophy has yet been published, but also
because the history of this gun curiously illuminates the enemy's
plans, intentions and expectations between the dates of his onslaught
in March and his recoil in August.

The substance of the story is as follows: The gun came from Krupp's.
Work on the position was started early in April, 1918--only a few days
after the site had fallen into the enemy's hands. It was completed
and ready for action on the morning of June 2nd. Its maximum firing
capacity was twenty-eight rounds per day. It fired continuously until
June 28th. By this time the original gun was worn out, having fired
over 350 rounds at Amiens. A new piece was ordered from Krupp's. It
arrived on August 7th, and was ready to fire by 7 p.m. It fired its
first round on August 8th at 2 a.m. and kept on firing till August
9th, firing thirty-five rounds in all. At 7 a.m. on August 9th, all
hands were ordered to remove everything that was portable and of value.
Demolition charges were laid and fired about 9 a.m. on August 9th. The
crew returned to Krupp's.

It is to be inferred from this narrative that the enemy's defeat at
Hamel on July 4th did not deter him from his enterprise of replacing
the original worn gun, but that after August 8th, he quite definitely
accepted the certainty that he would be allowed no time to remove the
gun intact, and so he destroyed it in order that we might not be able
to use it against him.

This is the largest single trophy of war won by any Commander during
the war, and it was a matter of great regret to me that the cost of its
transportation to Australia was prohibitive. The gun, as it stands,
was, therefore, fenced in, and it has been formally presented to the
City of Amiens as a souvenir of the Australian Army Corps.

So long as any Australian soldiers remained in France, this spot was
a Mecca to which thousands of pilgrims wandered; and soon there was,
over the whole of the immense structure, not one square inch upon which
the "diggers" had not inscribed their names and sentiments. There, in
the shade of Arcy Wood, the great ruin rests, a memorial alike of the
sufferings of Amiens and of the great Australian victory of Chuignes.


[16] The cablegram in question was dated July 13th, and was in the
following terms:

"Since the opening of the German offensive in March every Division
of the Australian Army in France has been engaged and always with
decisive success. The men of Australia, wherever and whenever they
have entered this mighty conflict, have invariably brought the enemy
to a standstill, and have made him pay dearly for each futile attempt
to pass them on the roads to Amiens and to the Channel Ports. Their
reputation as skilful, disciplined and gallant soldiers has never
stood higher throughout the Empire than it does to-day. Those who are
privileged to lead in battle such splendid men are animated with a
pride and admiration which is tempered only by concern at their waning
numbers. Already some battalions which have made historic traditions
have ceased to exist as fighting units, and others must follow unless
the Australian nation stands by us and sees to it that our ranks are
kept filled. We refuse to believe that the men and women of Australia
will suffer their famous Divisions to decay, or that the young manhood
still remaining in our homeland will not wish to share in the renown
of their brothers in France. Nothing matters now but to see this job
through to the end, and we appeal to every man to come, and come
quickly, to help in our work, and to share in our glorious endeavour.

  "MONASH, Lieutenant-General."



The design which I had formed after the battle of August 8th of driving
the enemy completely out of the bend of the Somme--but which I was
obliged to abandon for the time being because of the decision of the
Fourth Army to thrust in a south-easterly direction--was now about to
be realized. The effect of the battle of Chuignes, following so closely
upon the advance of the Third Army two days before, made it probable
that the enemy would decide upon a definite withdrawal to the line of
the Somme.

It now became my object to ensure, if he should attempt to do so,
firstly, that his withdrawal should be more precipitate than would
be agreeable to him, and, secondly, that when he reached that line
he should be accorded no breathing time to establish upon it a firm
defence from which he could hold us at bay for the remainder of the
fine weather.

The French Army took over from me on the night of the 23rd August the
whole of that portion of my front which still extended south of Lihons.
General Nollet, Commander of the 36th French Corps (34th and 35th
French Divisions), became my southern neighbour, displacing my Fourth
Division, and also a Canadian Division, for whose sector I had become
responsible since the departure of General Currie, a few days before.

During these redispositions, probably induced to do so by evidences
patent to him that large troop movements were in progress, the enemy
carried out a very heavy gas bombardment and maintained it for some
hours over the whole of the front which was being taken over by the

The wind blowing from the south, the gas, which was unusually dense,
drifted over the whole areas both of the Fourth Australian and the 32nd
British Divisions, and caused a large number of gas casualties, which
weakened the available garrisons of these sectors.

The Second and Fifth Divisions were brought up on the night of August
26th to relieve the First Division, which had worthily earned a rest,
and by these redispositions my whole frontage, which, in spite of the
reduction effected, still exceeded nine miles, was organized to be
held by four Divisions, counting from south to north as follows: 32nd
Division, Fifth Division, Second Division and Third Division, the
latter lying north of the River Somme.

The First and Fourth Divisions were each sent back, the former to
a pleasant reach of the Somme near Chipilly, and the latter to the
neighbourhood of Amiens, there to have a long rest and to recuperate
after their strenuous labours. These two Divisions were, I had
resolved, to be kept in reserve for any _tour de force_, the need
for which might arise later. This disposition was based on intuition
rather than on reasoning; but the event proved that it was a fortunate
decision; for, at a juncture, three weeks later, when a great
opportunity presented itself, these two Divisions, then fully rested,
proved of priceless value.

The Third Division held my front north of the Somme, and their presence
there ensured my unchallenged tactical control of that important
river valley. Numerous crossings had been systematically destroyed
by the enemy, as he was being driven back from bend to bend, and as
systematically repaired by my indefatigable engineer and pioneer
services, as fast as the ground passed under our control.

Reconstruction of bridges and culverts is as tedious a business as
their demolition is expeditious. A charge of gun-cotton, placed in the
right spot, a primer, a short length of fuse, or an electric lead to
a press button are all that are needed, and a single sapper standing
by with a match, to be lighted at the last moment, can do all that is
necessary to provide three days' work for a whole Company of Engineers.

Nevertheless, the control of the river valley was of inestimable
advantage, for it enabled me to carry out a policy of continuous and
rapid repair. Consequently, during the whole of our subsequent advance,
every means of traversing the valley from south to north, which had
been tampered with, was soon restored, as fast as my infantry had made
good their advance beyond the ruined crossing.

This facility was to have an important bearing upon my freedom of
action, not many days later, when the Corps came head on to the north
and south stretch of the Somme, and found every bridge gone. That
circumstance alone would have proved an irretrievable misfortune, if
I had not had already available numerous restored crossings upon the
east and west reach of the river. For by that means, my ability to
pass troops and guns rapidly from one bank of the Somme to the other
remained unimpaired.

Before leaving the line, the First Division had captured Cappy and
advanced its line on the right to the western outskirts of Foucaucourt,
while the Third Division had possessed itself of Suzanne. This was
the situation when, on the night of August 26th, the Second and Fifth
Divisions came into the line. Conferences with the four line Divisions
were held both on the 25th and 26th August, in order to ensure
co-ordinate action for the process of hustling the enemy across the

I was, at this stage, sorely perplexed by the uncertain attitude of
the Fourth Army. I was all for pushing on energetically, and received
General Rawlinson's approval to do so on August 24th; but on the very
next day he enunciated a diametrically opposite policy, which greatly
embarrassed me.

The gist of the Army attitude on the 25th may be thus expressed. The
presence of a new German Division, the 41st, of whom we had taken many
prisoners in Cappy, pointed to an intention on the part of the enemy
to reinforce. This negatived any intention to undertake a withdrawal.
This conclusion justified a revision of the Fourth Army policy. The
Army had done its fair share; it had drawn in upon its front all the
loose German reserves. Its resources in Tanks had been depleted, and
it would take a month to replace them. Other Armies would now take up
the burden, and the Fourth Army would now mark time, and await events
elsewhere. There was no object in hastening the enemy's evacuation of
the bad ground in the bend of the Somme, or in our taking possession
of it. There was a possibility of the French taking over more frontage
from us, and the Australian Corps front might in consequence be reduced
to a three-Division front, with three Divisions in Corps Reserve.

The course of events, in the next seven days, convinced me that the
results which were then achieved were totally unexpected by the Fourth
Army, and very vitally influenced the whole subsequent course of the
campaign. In point of fact, Lord Rawlinson quite frankly conceded to
me as much in express terms a week later. The appreciation made at
the time was doubtless an intentionally conservative one, but it did
not take into account the reserve of striking power which remained in
the Australian Corps, even after the past eighteen days of continuous
fighting, and even without the assistance of the Tanks.

There was only one saving clause in the Army attitude, and this
fortunately gave all the loophole necessary for the continued activity
which I desired to pursue. It was this: "Touch must be kept with
the enemy." This was of course a mere formality of tactics, and was
intended as no more than such. But it was sufficient to justify an
aggressive policy on my part.

As the result of my redispositions, completed by the night of August
27th, and of my conferences with the line Divisions, each Division
stood on that morning on a single Brigade front, with its two remaining
Brigades arranged in depth behind it. My orders were that in the event
of the enemy giving way, the line Brigade was to push on energetically,
and was to be kept in the line until it had reached the limits of its
endurance. The other two Brigades were to follow up more leisurely, but
to be prepared, each in turn, to relieve the line Brigade.

I had calculated that, by this method, each Brigade should be able to
function for at least two days on the frontage allotted; and that,
therefore, the present line Divisions could continue for at least six
days; and if the stress upon the troops had not been severe, they could
carry out a second rotation of Brigades for a second tour of six days.
The calculation was, in general terms, fully realized; and all of the
four line Divisions of that day did actually carry on for twelve days,
and two of them for an additional six days.

The Artillery resources of the Corps were throughout the whole of this
period fully maintained at the standard of the early days of August.
I still had at my disposal eighteen Brigades of Field Artillery; and
so was able to allot four Brigades of Artillery to each line Division,
while keeping two in Corps Reserve.

Early on the morning of August 27th, a policy of vigorous patrolling
all along our front was initiated. At several points, enemy posts which
were known to have been strongly held the night before were found to be
now unoccupied. Although reports varied along my front, they so fully
confirmed my anticipations, that without waiting to make any reference
to the Army, I ordered an immediate general advance along my whole

There followed a merry and exciting three days of pursuit; for the
enemy was really on the run, and by nightfall on August 29th, not
a German who was not a prisoner remained west of the Somme between
Péronne and Brie.

In previous years, during the enemy's retreat from Bapaume to the
Hindenburg Line, we had had experience of his methods of withdrawal.
Then they were deliberate, and his rearguards so methodically and
resolutely held up the British advance, that the enemy had been able
not only to remove from the evacuated area every particle of his
warlike stores, which were of any value, but also to carry out a
systematic devastation of the whole area, even to the felling of all
the fruit trees, and the tearing up of all the railways for miles.

The present withdrawal was of a very different character. To begin
with, it had been forced upon him by the battle of Chuignes, and he
had to undertake it precipitately and without adequate preparation.
Secondly, he had an impassable river behind him, which could be crossed
only at three points, Brie, Eterpigny, and Péronne. Thirdly, he had in
front of him a Corps flushed with its recent victories, while he had
been suffering a succession of defeats and heavy losses.

Nevertheless, he put up a good fight, and employed well-considered
tactics. The German Machine Gun Corps was much the best of all his
services. The manner in which the machine gunners stood their ground,
serving their guns to the very last, and defying even the Juggernaut
menace of the Tanks, won the unstinted admiration of our men. During
these three days of retreat the enemy used his machine guns to the best
advantage, and they constituted the only obstacle to our rapid advance.

These tactics were not unexpected by me, and I had an answer ready.
Defying the whole traditions of Artillery tactics in open warfare, I
insisted upon two somewhat startling innovations. The first was to
break up battery control, by detaching even sections (two guns), to
come under the direct orders of Infantry Commanders for the purpose of
engaging with direct fire any machine-gun nest which was holding them

The second was to insist that all batteries should carry 20 per cent.
of smoke shell. This elicited a storm of protest from the gunners.
Every shell carried which was not a high explosive or shrapnel shell
meant a shell less of destructive power, and, therefore, a shell
wasted. That had been the Gunnery School doctrine. But I imagine that
the test made at this epoch of the liberal use of smoke shell against
machine guns will lead to a revision of that doctrine.

Smoke shell proved of inestimable value in blinding the German machine
gunners. A few rounds judiciously placed screened the approach of our
Infantry, and many a machine-gun post was thereby rushed by us from
the flanks or even from the rear. General Hobbs (Fifth Division) and
General Rosenthal (Second Division), both of whom had formerly been
gunners, proved the strongest advocates for these smoke tactics.

By such means an energetic and successful pursuit was launched and
maintained. By the night of August 27th, our line already lay to the
east of the villages of Vermandovillers, Foucaucourt (on the main road)
and Fontaine. We also mastered the whole of the Cappy bend, including
the crossings of the Somme at Eclusier. The Fifth Division had a
particularly hard fight at Foucaucourt, which did not fall to us until
we had subjected it to a considerable bombardment. Tivoli Wood was the
chief obstacle encountered that day by the Second Division. The advance
of the 32nd Division also progressed smoothly.

During August 28th our advance was continued methodically,
and by that night the Corps front had reached the line

On August 29th the line of the Somme was reached, and all three
Divisions south of the Somme stood upon the high ground sloping down to
the Somme, with the river in sight from opposite Cléry, past Péronne
and as far south as St. Christ.

In the meantime the Third Division north of the Somme had marched
forward, in sympathetic step with the southern advance, successively
seizing Suzanne, Vaux, Curlu, Hem and Cléry. The Third Corps on my left
had followed up the general advance, though always lagging a little in
rear, thus keeping my left flank secure; and beyond the Third Corps,
the Third Army was approaching the line of the Canal du Nord, which
lay, as explained, in prolongation of the south-north course of the

The war correspondents of this time were given to representing the
progress of the Australian Corps during these three days as a leisurely
advance, regulated in its pace by the speed of the retiring enemy. But
it was nothing of the kind.

On the contrary, it was his withdrawal which was regulated by the speed
of our advance. There was not a foot of ground which was not contested
by all the effort which the enemy was able to put forth. It is quite
true that his withdrawal was intentional; but it is not true that it
was conducted at the deliberate rate which was necessary to enable him
to withdraw in good order.

He was compelled to fight all the time and to withdraw in disorder. He
was forced to abandon guns and huge quantities of stores. The amount
of derelict artillery ammunition found scattered over the whole of
this considerable area alone reached hundreds of thousands of rounds,
distributed in hundreds of dumps and depots, as well as scores of tons
of empty artillery cartridge-cases, the brass of which had become of
priceless value to the enemy.

Regimental and even Divisional Headquarters were abandoned as they
stood, with all their furniture and mess equipment left intact. Signal
wire and telephone equipment remained installed in all directions,
hospitals and dressing-stations were left to their fate. The advance
yielded to us over 600 prisoners, some half-dozen field-guns, and large
numbers of smaller weapons.

The last two days of the advance led us across a maze of trenches and
the debris of the 1916 campaign. The weather was unfavourable, there
was much rain and an entire absence of any kind of shelter. As a result
the line Brigades had to put forth all their powers of endurance and
reached the Somme in a very tired condition.

In the meantime my air squadron had an exceptionally busy time. Contact
patrols were maintained throughout every hour of daylight. Difficult as
it was to identify the positions reached by our leading troops during
an organized battle, where their approximate positions and ultimate
objective lines were known beforehand, it was doubly so when no guide
whatever existed as to the probable extent of each day's advance, or as
to the amount of resistance likely to be encountered at different parts
of the front.

Yet it was just under these circumstances that rapid and reliable
information as to the progress of the various elements of our front
line troops was more important than ever, and no means for obtaining
such information was so expeditious as the Contact Aeroplane.

To assist the air observer in identifying our troops, the latter were
provided with flares, of colours which were varied from time to time
in order to minimize the risk of imitation by the enemy. The method of
their employment, whether singly or in pairs, or three at a time, was
also frequently varied.

These flares on being lit gave out a dense cloud of coloured smoke,
easily distinguishable from a moderate height. The contact plane, which
would carry coloured streamers so that the infantry could identify it
as flying on that particular duty, would, when ready to observe, blow
its horn and thereupon the foremost infantry would light their flares.

It was a method of inter-communication between air and ground, which,
after a little practice, came to be well understood and intelligently
carried out. By its means a Divisional or Brigade Commander was kept
accurately informed, with great promptitude, of the progress of each of
his front line units, in relation to the various woods, ruined mills,
and other obstacles which lay spread across their path.

But the Air Force had another interesting duty, which was to watch
the roads leading back from the enemy's front line to his rear areas.
During tranquil times little movement could ever be seen on the enemy's
roads in the hours of daylight, for the very good reason that he took
care to carry out all his transportation to and from his front zone
under cover of darkness.

Now, however, his needs pressed sorely upon him; and our air reports,
from this time onwards, became almost monotonous in their iteration of
the fact that large columns of transport were to be seen moving back in
an easterly direction. These were his retiring batteries or his convoys
of wagons carrying such stores as he was able to salve.

Occasionally, too, came reports of convoys, which looked like motor
lorries or buses, moving hurriedly westward towards the German front.
These were generally diagnosed by us as reinforcements which were being
continually hurried forward to replace his human wastage, which was
considerable both by direct losses from death, wounds and capture and
by reason of the fatigue of such a strenuous and nerve-racking retreat.

All this movement in the enemy's rearward areas was a legitimate object
of interest to my Artillery. But, unfortunately, most of it lay well
beyond the range of my lighter Ordnance. The mobile Field Artillery
was effective at no greater range than about four miles. The longer
range 60-pounders found it a formidable task to traverse such broken
country, while the still heavier tractor-drawn 6-inch guns found it
quite impossible.

The latter, and all the Heavy and Super-Heavy guns and howitzers were
tied down to the roads, and it proved a tremendous business to advance
them in sufficient time and numbers to make their influence felt upon
the present situation. I have nothing but praise for the admirable
manner in which Brigadier-General Fraser and his Heavy Artillery
Headquarters carried out the forward moves of the whole of his
extensive Artillery equipment and organization from August 8th onwards
to August 23rd. But the rapid advance of the battle line during the
last week of August left the great bulk of Heavy Artillery far behind.

This was not entirely or even appreciably a question of the rate of
movement of the great lumbering steam or motor-drawn heavy guns.
They could quite easily march their eight or ten miles a day if they
could have a clear road upon which to do it. But it was this question
of roads that dominated the whole situation during this period, and
subsequently until the end of the campaign of the Corps.

The construction and upkeep of roads throughout the Corps area had
been, even in the days of stationary warfare, a difficult problem. At a
time like the present, when the battle was moving forward from day to
day, it became one of the first magnitude.

The rate of our advance was controlled almost as much by the speed with
which main and secondary roads could be made practicable for traffic
as by the degree of resistance offered by the enemy. Obstacles had to
be removed, the debris of war cleared to one side, shell holes solidly
filled in, craters of mine explosions bridged or circumvented, culverts
repaired and drains freed of obstructions.

The road surfaces, speedily deteriorating under the strain and wear
of heavy motor lorry traffic, had to be kept constantly under repair.
The transportation of the necessary road stone for this purpose alone,
imposed a heavy burden upon the roads and impeded other urgent traffic.
The amount of road construction and reconstruction actually in hand
within the Corps area, at any one time, far exceeded that normally
required in peace time for any great city district.

The traffic on the roads was always of the most dense and varied
character. For the proper maintenance and supply of a large Army Corps
at least three good main roads, leading back to our sources of supply,
would have been no more than adequate; but I seldom had at my disposal
more than one such main road, which had often to be shared with an
adjoining Corps.

There was ever an endless stream of traffic, labouring slowly along
in both directions. On such a road as that leading east from Amiens
towards the battle front, the congestion was always extreme. Ammunition
lorries, regimental horsed transport, motor dispatch riders, marching
infantry, long strings of horses and mules going to and from water,
traction engines, convoy after convoy of motor buses, supply wagons,
mess carts, signal motor tenders, complete batteries of Artillery,
motor tractors, tanks, Staff motor cars and gangs of coolie labourers
surged steadily forward, in an amazing jumble, with never a moment's

Such were some of the difficulties with which I was beset in the rear
of my battle line. They were negligible compared with those which now
loomed in front of it.

The reach of the Somme which runs northerly from Ham past Brie to
Péronne and there turns westerly, differs entirely in its topographical
features from that picturesque Somme Valley along both of whose banks
the Corps had been fighting its way forward. The steep banks have
disappeared, and for a mile or so on either side the ground slopes
gently towards the river bed.

The river itself is not less than 1,000 yards wide, being, in fact, a
broad marsh, studded with islets which are overgrown with rushes, while
the stream of the river threads its way in numerous channels between
them. The marsh itself is no more than waist-deep, but the flowing
water is too deep to be waded.

Along the western side of this marsh runs the canalized river, or, as
it is here known, the Somme Canal, flowing between masonry-lined banks.
The construction of a crossing of such a marsh was, even in peace time,
a troublesome business. It meant, to begin with, a causeway solidly
founded upon a firm masonry bed sunk deep into the mud of the valley
bed. The canal itself and each rivulet required its separate bridge, in
spans varying from thirty to sixty feet.

What, therefore, came to be known as the Brie Bridge, situated on the
line of the main road from Amiens to St. Quentin, really consisted of
no less than eight separate bridges disposed at irregular intervals
along the line of the causeway, between the western and eastern banks
of the valley. The demolition of even the smallest of these eight
bridges would render the whole causeway unusable, and would prohibit
all traffic.

There exists an almost exactly similar arrangement of bridges at St.
Christ, about two miles to the south of Brie, but no other traffic
crossing to the north of Brie until Péronne is reached. There, both the
main road and the railway, which cross side by side, are provided with
large span lattice girder bridges, over the main canal, while the marsh
has been reclaimed where the town has encroached upon it. The river
overflow is led through the town in several smaller canals or drains,
all of them liberally bridged where crossed by roads and streets.

The Péronne bridges are, therefore, no less indispensable, and no less
easily rendered useless than those at Brie. Should such crossings be
denied to me, it would be just possible to pass infantry across the
valley, by night, by wading and swimming, or by the use of rafts,
always provided that no opposition were to be met with. But to pass
tanks or heavy guns, or even vehicles of the lightest description
across the marsh, would have been quite impossible.

The Somme threatened, therefore, to be a most formidable obstacle to my
further advance. It was incumbent upon me to assume that at the very
least one of each series of bridges would be demolished by the enemy in
his retreat. It would have been criminal folly on his part were it to
have been otherwise; and I had had previous evidence of the efficiency
of his engineer services.

Reconnaissances pushed out on the night of August 29th speedily
verified the assumption that some at least of the bridges had been
wrecked. It was ultimately ascertained that every single bridge
in every one of the crossings named had been methodically and
systematically blown to pieces.

There was only one tactical method by which such an obstacle could be
forced by a frontal operation. By bringing up sufficient Artillery to
dominate the enemy's defences on the east bank of the river valley,
it might have been possible to pass across sufficient infantry to
establish a wide bridge-head, behind which the ruined crossings could
be restored, probably under enemy Artillery fire.

But it would have been a costly enterprise, and fraught with every
prospect of failure, should the enemy be prepared to put up any sort of
a fight to prevent it.

The value to me of the possession of the whole of the Somme Valley from
Cléry westwards, and the rapid repair of the bridges therein which I
had been able to effect, will now become apparent. For it permitted the
crystallizing into action of a project for dealing with the present
situation, which had been vaguely forming in my mind ever since the day
when I took over the Chipilly spur.

This was the plan of turning the line of the Somme from the north,
instead of forcing it by direct assault from the west.

It may be argued that such a plan would have been equally practicable,
even if the left flank of the Australian Corps had hitherto remained
and now still lay south of the Somme, instead of well to the north
of it. In that case other Corps on the north would have carried out
that identical plan, which ultimately did achieve this important and
decisive result.

I very much doubt it.

I had also had some experience of the futility of relying too much upon
the sympathetic action of flank Corps, who usually had their hands full
enough with their own problems, and had little time to devote to the
needs of their neighbours. It would, moreover, have been disagreeable
and inexpedient in the extreme to seek a right of way through the
territory over which another Corps held jurisdiction. Corps Commanders
were inclined to be jealous of any encroachment upon their frontiers,
or upon the tactical problems in front of them.

Moreover, I wanted, more than anything else, that this should be an
exclusively Australian achievement.

The situation being as it was, I possessed freedom of action, elbow
room, and control not only of all the territory which I should require
to use, but also of all the Somme crossings west of Cléry.

[Illustration: Final Instructions to the Platoon--an incident of the
battle of August 8th, 1918. The platoon is waiting to advance to Phase
B of the battle.]

[Illustration: An Armoured Car--disabled near Bony, during the battle
of September 29th, 1918.]

The strategic object in view was to make the line of the Somme useless
to the enemy as a defensive line, and thereby render probable his
immediate further enforced retreat to the Hindenburg line.

The tactical process by which this was to be achieved was to be an
attack upon and the seizure of the key position of the whole line, the
dominating hill of Mont St. Quentin.

But the paramount consideration was that the attack must be delivered
_without delay_ and that the enemy should not be allowed a single hour
longer than necessary to establish himself upon that hill.

Often since those days, wondering at the success which came to the
Australian Corps at Mont St. Quentin, I have tried justly to estimate
the causes which won us that success. And I have always come back
to the same conclusion, that it was due firstly and chiefly to the
wonderful gallantry of the men who participated, secondly to the
rapidity with which our plans were put into action, and thirdly to the
sheer daring of the attempt.

Mont St. Quentin lies a mile north of Péronne. It stands as a sentinel
guarding the northern and western approaches to the town, a bastion of
solid defence against any advance from the west designed to encircle
it. The paintings and drawings of many artists who have visited the
historic spot will familiarize the world with its gentle contours.

Viewed from the west, from the vantage point of the high ground near
Biaches in the very angle of the bend of the river, Mont St. Quentin
constitutes no striking feature in the landscape. But standing upon the
hill itself one speedily realizes how fully its possession dominates
the whole of the approaches to it. So placed that both stretches
of the river can from it be commanded by fire, and giving full and
uninterrupted observation over all the country to the west and north
and south of it, the hill is ringed around with line upon line of wire
entanglements, and its forward slopes are glacis-like and bare of
almost any cover.

Estimated by the eye of an expert in tactics, it would surely be
reckoned as completely impregnable to the assault, unaided by Tanks, of
any infantry that should attempt it.

It was the seizure, by a sudden attack, of this tactical key that
was the kernel of the plan which now had to be evolved. The capture
of the town of Péronne was consequential upon it, though little less
formidable a task. The effect of both captures would be completely to
turn the whole line of the Somme to the south, and the line of the
Canal du Nord; to open a wide gate through which the remainder of the
Fourth and Third Armies could pour, so as to roll up the enemy's line
in both directions.

In view of the historical importance of the occasion, and the
controversies which have already risen regarding the genesis of the
conception of these plans, I make no apology for reproducing, _in
extenso_, a literal copy of the notes used at the conference which I
held in the late afternoon of August 29th at the Headquarters of the
Fifth Division, then situated in a group of bare sheds--but recently
vacated by the enemy--on the main east and west road, just south of
Proyart. The conference was attended by Lambert (32nd Division), Hobbs
(Fifth Division), Rosenthal (Second Division), and Gellibrand (Third
Division). Neither "Tanks" nor "Heavy Artillery" attended as they could
not, in any event, co-operate in the execution of the plan.

  29. 8. 18.



  _Defensive Front_: 32nd Division to take over on 30th from Fifth
  Division front as far north as Ferme Lamire, total 7,500 yards, to
  hold same defensively, place outposts on river line, demonstrate
  actively as if aiming to cross Somme; if no resistance, endeavour
  establish posts on far bank; otherwise demonstrate only. Use only
  one Brigade; remainder of Division to rest and refit.

  _Offensive Frontages_: Fifth Division to extend along canal bank
  from Ferme Lamire to Biaches, frontage 4,000 yards. Second
  Division to extend from Biaches for 4,700 yards to bridge at
  Ommiécourt. Third Division: present front north of river.


  All Divisions to continue eastward advance. Each Division to have
  an immediate and an ultimate objective, thus:

  Third Division:  Immediate:  High ground north-east of Cléry.
                   Ultimate:  Bouchavesnes Spur.

  Second Division: Immediate:  Bridge Head at Halle. If
                                 crossing there impossible
                                 then cross behind front
                                 of Third Division.
                   Ultimate:   Mont St. Quentin.

  Fifth Division:  Immediate:  Force crossing at Péronne
                                 Bridges; if bridges gone,
                                 follow Second Division
                                 and aim at high ground
                                 south of Péronne.
                   Ultimate:   Wooded spur east of Péronne.

  Whichever Division first succeeds in crossing Somme Valley, the
  other Divisions to have right of way over the same crossings.

  Each Division to employ only one Brigade until a satisfactory
  footing is established on immediate objective.

  Second Division to lead the north-east movement.

  Artillery to stand as at present allotted, but liable to
  re-allotment by me as operation develops.

The above brief notes require but little elucidation. It is to
be remembered that at the time they were prepared, no definite
information had yet been received as to the condition of any of the
Somme crossings, because at that hour the river bank had not yet been
reached, and fighting on the west bank of the Somme was still going on.

It has also to be remembered that these notes were only for my own
guidance in verbally expounding the plan, and were not actually issued
as written orders. Naturally many details, left unexpressed by the
notes, were filled in during the conference. Moreover I anticipated
that the whole operation would be one of a nature in which I would have
to intervene as the battle proceeded, in accordance with the varying
situation from time to time, and this actually proved to be necessary.

It will be noted that on August 29th I had already reached the definite
decision not to attempt to force the passage of the Somme south of
Péronne; the 32nd Division was, however, instructed to make every
demonstration of a desire to attempt it, the object being to divert the
attention of the enemy from the real point of attack.

This was to be launched from the direction of Cléry. In preparation for
it, the Second Division sent its reserve Brigade, the 5th (Martin), to
cross the river at Feuillères, on August 30th, to pass through the area
and front of the Third Division, and secure a bridge head on the Cléry
side of the river, opposite to the Ommiécourt bend. The object was to
exploit the possibility of using the Ommiécourt crossing, and if it
were found to be intact to use it for the purpose of crossing with the
remaining two Brigades that same night.

This move was successfully accomplished, although the 5th Brigade found
portion of the village of Cléry still occupied, and that the trench
systems to the east of it were still held in strength. After much
skilful fighting, the Brigade reached its allotted destination, with
slight casualties, capturing seven machine guns and 120 prisoners.

The bridge at Ommiécourt was found to be damaged, but repairable so
as to be usable by infantry on foot, and this work was at once put
in hand. The same night the rearrangement of the fronts of all four
Divisions in the line was carried out, and all was in readiness for the
daring attempt to break the line of the Somme.

During the afternoon of August 30th, General Rawlinson came to see me,
and I unfolded to him the details of the operations contemplated and
the arrangements made for the next day. I have already referred to the
pleasant and attractive personality of this distinguished soldier. His
qualities of broad outlook, searching insight, great sagacity, and
strong determination, tempered by a wise restraint, never failed to
impress me deeply. He always listened sympathetically, and responded
convincingly. On this occasion he was pleased to be pleasantly
satirical. "And so you think you're going to take Mont St. Quentin with
three battalions! What presumption! However, I don't think I ought to
stop you! So, go ahead, and try!--and I wish you luck!"



From early dawn on Saturday, August 31st, until the evening of
September 3rd, three Divisions of the Australian Corps engaged in a
heroic combat which will ever be memorable in Australian history.

At its conclusion we emerged complete masters of the situation. Mont
St. Quentin, the Bouchavesnes spur, the large town of Péronne, and the
high ground overlooking it from the east and north-east, were in our
possession. A wide breach had been driven into the line of defence
which the enemy had endeavoured to establish on the series of heights
lying to the east of the Somme and of the Canal du Nord.

From the edges of this breach, the flanks of that portion of his line
which were still intact were being threatened with envelopment. For
him there was nothing for it, but finally to abandon the line of the
Somme, and to resume his retreat helter-skelter to the hoped-for secure
protection of the great Hindenburg Line.

The extraordinary character of this Australian feat of arms can best be
appreciated by a realization of the supreme efforts which the enemy put
forward to prevent it.

The shower of blows which he had received on the front of his
Second Army from August 8th onwards, had wrought upon it a grievous
disorganization. The battered remnants of his line Divisions had been
reinforced from day to day by fresh units, scraped up from other parts
of his front, and thrown into the fight as fast as they could be made

Sometimes they were complete Divisions from Reserve, often single
reserve Regiments of Divisions already deeply involved, and
sometimes even single Battalions torn from other Regiments--Pioneer
Battalions, units of the Labour Corps, Army Troops, Minenwerfer
Companies had all been thrown in, indiscriminately.

This brought about a heterogeneous jumble of units, and of German
nationalities, for Prussians, Bavarians, Saxons and Würtembergers were
captured side by side. The tactical control of such mixed forces,
during a hasty and enforced retreat, and their daily maintenance, must
have presented sore perplexities to the Headquarters of the German
Second Army in those fateful days.

To meet the crisis with which Ludendorff was now confronted, he
determined to throw in one of the finest of the reserve Divisions still
left at his disposal. The Second Prussian Guards Division was sent
forward to occupy the key position of Mont St. Quentin, and to hold it
at all costs.

This famous Division comprised among its units, the Kaiserin Augusta
and the Kaiser Alexander Regiments, almost as famous in history and
rich in tradition as are our own Grenadiers and Coldstreams. There is
no doubt that this celebrated Division fought desperately to obey its

For the defence of Péronne, the enemy command went even further, and
called for volunteers, forming with them a strong garrison of picked
men drawn from many different line Regiments, to man the ramparts which
surround the town. Dozens of machine guns were posted in vantage points
from which the approaches could be swept.

All over the river flats lying in the angle of the Somme between
Cléry, Mont St. Quentin and Péronne ran line upon line of barbed wire
entanglements, a legacy from the 1916 fighting, and much of this was
still intact, although breaches had been made in many places both
by the French in 1917 and by the Germans themselves, to facilitate
movement over the ground, during their respective re-occupations of
this territory.

The terrain, which was in greater part open, and exposed in every
direction to full view from the heights, sloped gently upwards
towards the commanding knoll. Cover was scarce, and the few ruins of
brickfields and sugar refineries which dotted the landscape had also
been garrisoned by the enemy as centres of resistance, designed to
break up and dislocate any general attack.

Our infantry was deprived of the assistance of any Tanks, for the heavy
casualties which had been suffered by this Arm made it imperative to
allow the Tank Corps time for repairs, renewals and the training of
fresh crews. Nor was any appreciable quantity of Heavy Artillery yet
available, since the congested and dilapidated condition of the roads
prevented the advance of all but a few of the lighter varieties of
heavy guns.

The fighting of these four days was, therefore, essentially a pure
infantry combat, assisted only by such mobile Artillery of lesser
calibres as was available.

Such was the formidable nature of the task, and of the disabilities
under which the Second, Third and Fifth Divisions approached it.
That they overcame all obstacles, gained all their objectives, and
captured nearly 2,000 prisoners, mainly from crack Prussian regiments,
constitutes an achievement memorable in military annals and standing to
the everlasting glory of the troops who took part in it.[17]

It is difficult to write a connected and consecutive account of the
details of the fighting which took place. The most that is possible
in the brief space available is to indicate on general lines the
successive stages of the battle. Indeed, a minute account of the action
of each of the 35 Battalions engaged would only prove wearisome and
confusing. The best method of presenting a general picture of the
course of the engagement is to follow the fortunes of each Brigade in

First in order of time, and of most importance in relation to its
immediate results, was the action of the Second Division. It was the
5th Brigade (Martin) which Major-General Rosenthal had detailed to open
the attack. The remaining two Brigades of the Divisions (6th and 7th)
received orders to rest the troops as much as possible, but to be in
readiness to move at the shortest notice.

A Machine Gun Company (16 guns) was placed at the disposal of
Brigadier-General Martin, while the Artillery at the disposal of
the Division, comprising five Brigades of Field Artillery and one
Brigade of Heavy Artillery, remained under the personal control of the
Divisional Commander.

The attack opened with three Battalions of the 5th Brigade in the
first line, and one Battalion in support. The total strength of the
assaulting Infantry of this whole Brigade was on this day not more than
70 Officers and 1,250 other ranks. The centre Battalion was directed
straight at the highest knoll of Mont St. Quentin, while the right
Battalion prolonged the line to the right. The left Battalion had
assigned to it as an immediate objective the ruins of the village of
Feuillaucourt, from which it was hoped that a flank attack upon the
Mount could be developed.

The advance began at 5 a.m. It was a dull morning and still quite dark.
The two right Battalions advanced with as much noise as possible, a
ruse which secured the surrender of numbers of the enemy lying out in
advanced outpost positions. A nest of seven Machine Guns was rushed and
captured without any loss to us.

At the appointed hour, our Artillery opened on selected targets, the
ranges being lengthened from moment to moment in sympathy with the
advance of the Infantry. Although during the advance a great deal of
machine gun fire was encountered, all went well. The centre and left
Battalions gained a footing respectively in Feuillaucourt and on the
main hill, but the progress of the right Battalion was arrested by
heavy machine gun fire from St. Denis. This was the site of a ruined
sugar refinery, and lay on the main road between Péronne and Mont
St. Quentin. It was a strong point that presented a great deal of
difficulty and held out to the last.

The centre Battalion had by 7 a.m. passed through the ruins of Mont
St. Quentin village and had crossed the main road from Péronne to
Bouchavesnes. It now had to receive the full brunt of a determined
counter attack, at a moment when it was still disorganized and
breathless from its difficult assault. The Battalion was therefore
withdrawn across the road and firmly established itself in an old
trench system to the west of it.

In this position it beat off five successive counter attacks,
inflicting most severe losses upon the enemy. The Brigade maintained
its position until nightfall. Its losses for the day were 380.

In the meantime the 6th Brigade (Robertson) of the Second Division had
been ordered to cross the Somme and move up behind the 5th Brigade,
in readiness to carry on the attack, and obtain possession of the
remainder of the main spur of Mont St. Quentin. As this Brigade only
entered into the fight at a later hour, I must revert to the events of
the forenoon of August 31st.

It was about 8 a.m. that I was able to report to General Rawlinson,
by telephone, that we had obtained a footing on Mont St. Quentin
itself. He was at first totally incredulous, but soon generously
congratulatory, proclaiming that the event was calculated to have a
most important influence upon the immediate future course of the war.
He expressed the hope that we should be able to hold on to all that we
had gained.

To this task I now had to bend myself, and I found it necessary to put
a severe strain upon the endurance and capacity of the troops. Great as
had always been my concern in the pitched battles of the days recently
passed to reduce to very definite limits the demands made upon the
physical powers of the Infantry soldier, a juncture had arrived and
a situation had been created, which demanded the utmost rapidity in
decision and action, and a relentless insistence upon prompt response
by the troops.

The 5th Brigade had been thrust out nearly two miles beyond our
general line. Its flanks were in the air. It was undoubtedly fatigued.
Everything must be done and done promptly to render it adequate
support, to take advantage of its success, and to ensure that its
effort had not been in vain.

It will be remembered that the Fifth and Second Divisions had both been
instructed to endeavour to secure a crossing over the river. Whichever
Division first succeeded was to accord right of way to its neighbour.
No success had yet attended the efforts of the Fifth Division, the main
Péronne bridges being still inaccessible from the south. The bridge
sites were under the enemy's fire, which precluded the possibility of
repair; and the approaches to them were also swept by Machine Gun fire.

The Second Division, on the other hand, had during the past 48 hours
succeeded in making the Feuillères bridge traffickable for guns and
vehicles, and those at Buscourt and Ommiécourt for foot traffic. It
transpired later that the enemy, rightly suspecting that I would
attempt to use this latter crossing, kept it under heavy Artillery fire
all day.

As soon as I had formed a judgment on the situation, about 8.30 a.m.
(August 31st), I issued instructions to General Hobbs immediately to
put in motion his reserve Brigade, the 14th (Stewart). He was to direct
it towards the Ommiécourt crossing, and later in the day to pass it
across the river and through the ground won that morning by the 5th
Brigade, with a view to developing at the earliest possible moment an
attack in a south-easterly direction upon the town of Péronne itself.
The ultimate objective was still to be the high ground south and east
of Péronne. His 8th Brigade was also to be held ready to move at the
shortest notice.

It was a serious performance to demand, and it was fraught with many
risks. There was no time to assemble responsible Commanders concerned,
separated as they were by long distances over bad and congested roads.
In the absence of properly co-ordinated action, there was every chance
of confusion, and cross-purposes, and even of collision of authority
arising from the troops of one Division passing over ground under the
tactical control of another Division.

But the only alternative was to do nothing and attempt nothing. That
would have been the worst of bad generalship, and it was an occasion
when risks must be taken.

The course of subsequent events fully demonstrated that the only true
solution was the one chosen, for the whole of the defences of Péronne
were thereby taken with a rush, while they were still being organized
by the enemy. The delay of only a day or two would have meant that
the capture of Péronne would have been many times more costly than it
actually proved to be.

The 14th Brigade had before it a march of some seven miles to
bring it into a position in which it could deploy for an attack on
Péronne. Working according to text book such a march could have been
accomplished in something under three hours. It took the Brigade over
ten hours. For the line of march lay across the very worst of the
shell-torn, tangled country enclosed in the great bend of the Somme,
and progress was most difficult and exhausting. Frequent halts were
necessary to rest the men, and restore order to the struggling columns.

Discovering the impossibility of crossing the river at Ommiécourt, the
Brigade made a wide detour to cross by the newly established bridge at
Buscourt. It arrived there just at the same time as the 7th Brigade
(Wisdom), which Rosenthal had also directed to the same point for the
same purpose. This occurrence illustrates the nature of the risks of
a hastily developed tactical plan. However, the good sense of the
Commanders on the spot obviated any serious confusion and the 7th
Brigade gave the 14th Brigade the right of way.

The 14th Brigade completed its march during the hours of falling
darkness and, passing through Cléry, came up on the right of the 6th
Brigade, in readiness for the combined attack by the two Divisions at
dawn on September 1st.

The night that followed was a stressful one for all Commanders.
Divisional Generals had to co-ordinate all action between their
Brigadiers, and their Artillery. The Brigadiers in turn had afterwards
to assemble their Battalion Commanders, and decide on detailed plans
of action for each separate unit. Distances were long, the country was
strange, roads were few and unfamiliar; so that it is not surprising
that the last conferences did not break up until well into the small
hours of September 1st. There was no sleep that night for any senior
officer in the battle area.

September 1st was a day full of great happenings and bloody hand to
hand fighting. The assault by the 6th Brigade passing over the line
won the day before by the 5th Brigade carried it well over the crest
of Mont St. Quentin, and confirmed for good and all our hold on that
imperious fortress. Few prisoners were taken, for it was bayonet work
over every inch of the advance, and the field was strewn all over with
enemy dead. The impetus of the 6th Brigade assault carried our line 600
yards to the east of the summit of the knoll.

It is difficult to allocate, in due proportion, the credit for the
capture of this important stronghold between the two gallant Brigades
concerned. It is true that the 6th Brigade did on September 1st achieve
the summit of the Mount; but it is equally true that it only completed
what the 5th Brigade had so wonderfully begun the day before. No one
will grudge to either of the two Brigades their share of the honour
that is due to both.

The action of the Second Division on that day was completed by the
bringing up of the 7th Brigade into a position of support behind the
6th Brigade, thereby relieving the 5th Brigade from further line duty.

Although the action of the individual Brigades of all the three battle
Divisions must necessarily be narrated separately and with some
attempt at a proper chronological sequence, yet it would be a mistake
to suppose that their actions were independent of each other. On the
contrary, they all operated as part of a comprehensive battle plan,
which necessarily took full account of the interdependence of the
course of events in different parts of the field.

Thus the advance on this day of the 6th Brigade materially assisted
the attack on Péronne by the 14th Brigade, while the progress of the
latter removed much trouble from the southern flank of the 6th Brigade.

The men of the 14th Brigade that day had their mettle up to a degree
which was astonishing. On the occasion of the great attack of August
8th, and ever since, it had been the cruel fate of this Brigade to be
the reserve unit of its Division on every occasion when there was any
serious fighting in hand. The Brigade felt its position very keenly.
As one Company Commander, who distinguished himself in that day's
fighting, afterwards picturesquely put it: "You see! We'd been trying
to buy a fight off the other fellows for a matter of three weeks. On
that day we got what we'd been looking for, and we made the most of

The 14th Brigade advanced to the assault at 6 a.m. concurrently with
the eastern thrust of the 6th Brigade. One Battalion, with two others
in support, was directed against St. Denis, while the fourth made
a direct attack on Péronne. Many belts of wire had to be struggled
through. There was much machine gun fire, from front and flanks, and
it looked as if further progress would be impossible. Nevertheless,
this gallant Brigade, by persistent effort, made itself master of the
western half of Péronne.

The attack on St. Denis at first made very slow progress, the enemy
holding out resolutely in the ruins of that hamlet, and in the adjacent
brickfields. During the day, the 15th Brigade made spirited attempts to
effect the crossing of the river, and to co-operate from the south.

The records of the events of these three days are confused and
discontinuous. Many of the men who could have filled in the gaps of the
story were unfortunately killed or evacuated as casualties. But from
the mass of reports, the salient facts emerge clearly.

The 15th Brigade succeeded, on September 2nd, in putting a Battalion
across the river, and this assisted the 14th Brigade to "mop up" the
remainder of the town of Péronne. Later the rest of the 15th Brigade
and two Battalions of the 8th Brigade (Tivey) were also drawn into the
fighting. St. Denis and the brickfields fell to us during this period.

Although the situation, from the point of view of the advance
eastwards, remained almost stationary, it was a time of fierce local
fighting. Many deeds of valour and sacrifice adorn the story.

It was late on September 3rd that the effects of this long-sustained
struggle became apparent. The whole of Péronne and most of the high
ground in its vicinity were, by then, definitely in our hands, and
although the little suburb of Flamicourt held out determinedly for
another day, the further resistance of the enemy began to fade away.

Doubtless the loss of Mont St. Quentin was a controlling factor in the
decision which was forced upon him to undertake a retreat, for with
that eminence in our possession, he could not have maintained himself
for many days in the town, nor would its retention have been of any
tactical value to him.

As an immediate result, the high ground of the Flamicourt spur just
south of Péronne fell into our hands on September 3rd, and the enemy
outposts spread along the banks of the marsh in front of the 32nd
Division sought safety from complete envelopment by a hasty withdrawal;
a number of their isolated posts were, however, left unwarned of this
retreat, so that these were, later on, captured by us from the rear.

I must now briefly turn to the doings of the Third Australian Division
during these four epic days. Its three Brigades (9th, 10th and 11th)
daily performed prodigies of valour. The Division carried our line,
inexorably, up the Bouchavesnes spur in a north-easterly direction. The
seizure of this very important ground not only powerfully aided but
also strongly confirmed our seizure of Mont St. Quentin.

The Division, having been given its general rôle, was necessarily left
to a large extent to decide for itself its detailed action from day to
day, seeing that it still had to perform the function, inevitable for a
flank Division, of a link with my neighbouring Corps. Fortunately the
arrival of a new, fresh Division (the 74th) from the Eastern theatre
of war, which came into the Third Corps and was promptly thrown in,
enabled that Corps to keep up fairly well with the general advance.

The British Third Army, too, was now beginning to make its pressure
felt, and was approaching the line of the Canal du Nord over a wide
front. The Third Division was therefore free to conform its forward
movement to that of the rest of the Australian Corps; its energetic
action gave me elbow room for the manoeuvring of so many Brigades in
the region of Cléry, and its capture of so much valuable ground east of
the Canal du Nord served greatly to widen the breach.

By the night of September 3rd, the main tactical purposes on which
the Corps had been launched on August 29th had been achieved in their
entirety. Their execution furnishes the finest example in the war
of spirited and successful Infantry action conducted by three whole
Divisions operating simultaneously side by side.

Lord Rawlinson has more than once referred to the operation as the
finest single feat of the war. Inevitably the dramatic and unlooked
for success of the Second Division in the rapid storming of the Mount
enthrals the imagination and overshadows all the other noteworthy
incidents of these pregnant days. But none will begrudge the rain of
congratulations which fell upon the head of Major-General Rosenthal.
A massive man, whose build belies his extraordinary physical energy,
he always was an egregious optimist, incapable of recognizing the
possibility of failure. That is why he invariably succeeded in all
that he undertook, and often embarked upon the apparently impossible.
An architect before the war, he served for the first two years as an
Artillery officer, both as a Brigade Commander and as a General of
Divisional Artillery. He gained his Infantry experience as Commander
of the 9th Brigade, and so was well qualified by versatile service to
assume the command of the Second Division. His leadership of the latter
contributed in no small measure to the fame which it has won.

The text of the congratulatory message issued on this occasion by the
Fourth Army read as follows:

  "The capture of Mont St. Quentin by the Second Division is a feat
  of arms worthy of the highest praise. The natural strength of the
  position is immense, and the tactical value of it, in reference
  to Péronne and the whole system of the Somme defences, cannot be
  over-estimated. I am filled with admiration at the gallantry and
  surpassing daring of the Second Division in winning this important
  fortress, and I congratulate them with all my heart.


[Illustration: MAP E]

I am concerned nevertheless that the fine performance of the Fifth
Division should not be underrated. The circumstances under which
General Hobbs was called upon to intervene in the battle, at very short
notice, imposed upon him, personally, difficulties of no mean order. I
am prepared to admit quite frankly that the demands which I had to make
upon him, his Staff and his Division were severe.

Following upon four days of arduous pursuit, his troops were called
upon to undertake a long and difficult march over a most broken
country, to be followed by three days of intensive fighting of the most
severe character.

General Hobbs was, first and foremost, a lover of the Australian
soldiers, and their devoted servitor. He belonged to that type of
citizen-soldier who, before the war, had spent long years in preparing
himself for a day when his country would surely require his military
services. Like several of the most successful of Australia's generals,
he had specialized in Artillery, and was, in fact, selected as the
senior Artillery Commander of Australia's first contingent. That
fact alone was the stamp of his ability. While he would be the last
to lay claim to special brilliance, or outstanding military genius,
he nevertheless succeeded fully as the Commander of a Division, by
his sound common sense, and his sane attitude towards every problem
that confronted him. He possessed also the virtue of a large-hearted
sympathy for all subordinate to him; and that gave him a loyal
following, which carried him successfully through several great crises
in the affairs of the Fifth Division.

This period was one of those crises. When, late on the afternoon of
August 31st, he urged upon me with much earnestness the stress upon his
troops, and repeated the anxious representations of his Brigadiers--I
was compelled to harden my heart and to insist that it was imperative
to recognize a great opportunity and to seize it unflinchingly. His
response was loyal and whole-hearted. His Division followed the lead
which he thus gave them, and he led them to imperishable fame.

Considerable redispositions followed upon the transfer of my battle
front to the country east of the Somme. These, and the reasons which
governed their nature, chief among which was the resumption of the
enemy's rearward movement, I shall deal with in due course.

Battle problems on the grand scale were, for the moment, relegated to
the background, and there now arose a multitude of other problems,
almost equally burdensome, relating to the supply and maintenance of
the Corps.

Every Corps must be based upon a thoroughly reliable and efficient line
of supply, and for this a railway in first-class operating condition is
a prime essential. Every kind of requisite must be carried by rail to
some advanced distribution point called a "railhead." Thence supplies
are distributed by motor lorry to the areas still further forward.

The appropriate distance of the railhead behind the battle front is
conditioned by the available supply of motor lorries, and their range
of action. If the distance be too great the stress upon the mechanical
transport becomes so severe that it rapidly deteriorates, and an undue
proportion of lorries daily falls out of service. As the facilities
for repair in the mobile workshops are strictly limited, an excessive
rate of wastage among these vehicles soon dislocates the whole supply

The experience hitherto gained had demonstrated that a railhead could
not conveniently be allowed to fall behind our advance more than ten or
twelve miles. This limit had already been reached when the Corps front
arrived on the west bank of the Somme, and the strain upon the lorry
service was already great.

For a further deep advance of the whole Corps in pursuit of the enemy
towards the Hindenburg Line, still distant another fifteen miles, it
became imperative, therefore, that the railway service to Péronne
and beyond should be speedily reopened, or some equally efficient
alternative provided. The great lattice girder railway bridge at
Péronne had been irretrievably demolished. Engineers estimated that it
would take two months to restore it, and at least a month to provide
even a temporary deviation and crossing. Nevertheless, the work was put
in hand without delay.

An alternative possibility was to construct a new line of railway to
connect the existing military line at Bray to the Péronne railway
station, a length of new construction amounting to some six miles. It
was estimated that such a link could be built in a fortnight, and this
work also was commenced forthwith.

There was a third possibility. This was speedily to repair that
portion of the railway which lay west of the Somme, and to establish
a railhead near Péronne, but on the opposite bank of the river. This
proposal involved only a few days' work, for extensive sidings already
existed on the west bank, and had been left more or less undamaged by
the enemy. But it also involved the complete restoration of all road
traffic bridges, both at Péronne and at Brie, for the service of the
intense traffic which would ensue across the Somme from such a point of

The rebuilding of the crossings was, in any case, a matter of urgent
necessity. By this time all my heaviest guns had already been brought
up to the vicinity of the west bank of the Somme, and had there
perforce to wait; for a long detour, on the densely-crowded roads, to
cross the Somme, say as far back as Corbie, where bridges were strong
and grades were easy, was out of the question.

The problem, therefore, involved a stable and comprehensive
reconstruction; half measures would not meet the case. But half
measures were an inevitable necessity of the situation, to begin
with, because troops had to be fed, and their supplies could be
carried in no lighter way, in adequate quantities, than in the normal
horse-transport wagons.

The order of procedure had, therefore, to be, firstly, hastily to
reconstruct some sort of bridging, based generally upon the wreckage
of the original bridge, and strong enough to carry loads up to those
of horsed wagons; next to stay, strut and strengthen these temporary
bridges to fit them for the passage of the lighter guns, and finally to
reconstruct them in their entirety for the heaviest loads.

At a point such as the southern entrance to Péronne, where the
approaches could not be conveniently deviated, the difficulties of
such successive reconstructions, while the flow of traffic had to be
maintained, can hardly be fully realized.

For many days, in the early part of September, Brie, Eterpigny and
Péronne were scenes of feverish activity. Every available technical
unit that could be spared from other urgent duty was concentrated upon
this vital work. Most of the Engineer Field Companies, three of the
five Pioneer Battalions, both Tunnelling Companies, and all the Army
Troops Companies, laboured in relays, night and day.

Hundreds of tons of steel girders, of all lengths and sections, were
hurried up, by special lorry service. Pile-driving gear was hastily
improvised. The wreckage of the original bridges was overhauled for
sound, useful timbers. The torn and twisted steelwork was dragged out
of the way by horse or steam power, and tumbled in a confused mass into
the river bed. Hammer, saw and axe were wielded with a zest and vigour
rarely seen in peace-time construction. The whole work was supervised
by my Chief Engineer, Brigadier-General Foott, and was later, when the
advance of the Corps was resumed, completed by the Army authorities.
The speed and punctuality with which the first temporary viaducts were
completed and ready for use were exemplary, and reflect every credit
upon Foott and his helpers. Within forty-eight hours bridges usable for
ordinary supplies and for field guns became available, and thereafter
were rapidly strengthened by successive stages.

The whole work of restoration, in which the Australian technical
services played so prominent a part, won the highest praise from the
Field Marshal, who expressed his appreciation in a special message of
thanks to these services.

The congestion of traffic at the Péronne bottleneck was, however,
serious. Blocks occurred, reminiscent of those which are familiar in
the heart of London when the dense traffic is temporarily held up by
a passing procession. Marching troops always had the right of way;
and a Division on the move up to or back from the line meant a severe
super-load upon the already overtaxed road capacity.

Sometimes a block of traffic would occur for an hour at a time, and a
motley collection of vehicles, stretching back for miles, would pile up
on the roads. The capabilities of a very able road and traffic control
service, numbering hundreds of officers and men, acting under the
direction of my Provost Marshal, were often severely tested. More than
once my own motor car was unavoidably held up at this bottleneck for
half an hour at a time, on occasions, too, when the situation required
my urgent presence at some important meeting.

All these minor embarrassments arising from the passage by the
Australian Corps of a great military obstacle such as the Somme were,
however, soon dissipated. The Somme had loomed large, for many days, in
the minds of all of us--first as a problem of tactics, and next as a
problem of engineering. Before the end of the first week of September
the Somme had ceased to hold our further interest. It had become a
thing that was behind us, both in thought and in actuality.

The enemy was once more on the move, and it became our business to
press relentlessly on his heels.


[17] The following telegram, selected at random from the files of
September 1st, indicates the extraordinary mixture of units which the
enemy had collected to defend this vital point:

  "To Australian Corps Intelligence from 2nd Division--sent September
  1st at 7 p.m. Identifications from prisoners examined since noon:
  28th R.I.R.; 65th I.R.; 161st I.R.; 94th I.R.; 95th I.R.; 96th
  I.R.; Alexander Regt.; Augusta Regt.; 4th Bav. I.R.; 8th Bav. I.R.;
  25th Bav. I.R.; 447th I.R.; 2nd G. Guard F.A.R.; 221st F.A.R.; 2nd
  Co. M.G. Corps; 67th Pioneer Co.; 3rd Army Troops; 102nd Pioneer
  Bn. of 2nd Guards Div.; 402nd M.W.Co.; 185th R.I.R. A pioneer of
  the 23rd Co. has been retained for 5th Aust. Div. to remove charges
  from bridges not yet blown. Prisoner 96th I.R. says Regt. came
  up for counter-attack night 31-1 to retake Mt. St. Quentin, but
  counter-attack did not come off, owing to attack expected from
  us. All prisoners interrogated agree that line was to be held
  at all costs. Regiments are now considerably intermingled and

(NOTE.--I.R.--Infanterie Regiment; R.I.R.--Reserve Infanterie Regiment;
M.W.Co.--Minenwerfer Compagnie; Bav.--Bavarian.)

[18] Mr. Hughes, the Commonwealth Prime Minister, visited the
battlefield of Mont St. Quentin, with a distinguished company, on
September 14th. The officer in question, standing near the summit
of the hill, was about to relate his experiences, and this was his



During the closing days of August events had commenced to move rapidly;
for the offensive activities initiated by the Fourth Army, three weeks
earlier, began to spread in both directions along the Allied front.

The Third British Army had entered the fray on August 21st; the First
British Army was ready with its offensive on August 26th, on which
date the Canadian Corps, restored to its old familiar battleground,
delivered a great attack opposite Arras.

The French, who, on my right flank, had along their front followed up
the enemy retirement begun after the battle of Chuignes, reached Roye
on August 27th, and Noyon on August 28th. Their line, however, still
bore back south-westerly from the vicinity of the river near Brie and
St. Christ.

By August 29th the line of the First Army had reached and passed
Bapaume, and that of the Third Army cut through Combles. The Third
Corps, on my immediate left, had made good its advance as far as

Thus, the thrust of the Australian Corps beyond the Canal du Nord, on
August 31st to September 3rd, formed the spearhead which pierced the
Somme line, and the Corps was still leading the advance both of the
French and the British.

From the morning of September 4th the evidences of the enemy's
resolution to withdraw to the Hindenburg Line became hourly more
unmistakable. His Artillery fire died down considerably, particularly
that from his long range and high velocity guns. These were probably
already on the move to the rear, in order to clear the roads for his
lighter traffic.

[Illustration: The Hindenburg Line Wire--near Bony.]

[Illustration: The 15-inch Naval Gun--captured at Chuignes, August
23rd, 1918.]

The high ground near Biaches (west of Péronne) provided a vantage point
from which an extensive view of the whole country could be obtained.
There lay before us, beyond the Somme, a belt about eight miles deep,
which had scarcely suffered at all from the ravages of the previous
years of war.

It was gently undulating country, liberally watered, and heavily
wooded, especially in the minor valleys, in which snuggled numerous
villages still almost intact and habitable, although, of course,
entirely deserted by the civilian population.

Beyond this agreeable region there began again an area of devastation,
which grew in awful thoroughness as the great Hindenburg Line was
approached some six miles further on. For, through the autumn and
winter of 1917, and up to the moment of the German offensive in March,
1918, it was there that the British Fifth Army had faced the enemy in
intensive trench fighting.

In all directions over this still habitable belt there were now signs
of unusual life and activity. Columns of smoke began to rise in the
direction of all the villages. Sounds of great explosions rent the air.
These were sure indications that the enemy was burning the stores which
he could not hope to salve, and was destroying his ammunition dumps
lest they should fall into our hands.

A vigorous pursuit was now the policy most to be desired. But my troops
in the line were very tired from the exertions of a great struggle,
and many of the units, by reason of their battle losses, required time
to reorganize and refit. It was also essential that no rapid advance
should be attempted until the arrangements for supply, depending upon
the completion of the Somme crossings, had been assured.

The general line of advance of the Corps had, during August, been in a
due easterly direction. The operations about Péronne had necessitated
a drive north-easterly, and the advance of my Third Division up the
Bouchavesnes spur had carried them square across the line of advance of
the Third Corps.

The first step was to restore our original Corps boundaries, and to
resume the original line of advance. By arrangement with General
Godley, his 74th Division took over the ground captured by my Third
Division, which was thereby released and enabled to concentrate, for a
couple of days' rest, in the Cléry region. The Second Division employed
its 7th Brigade on September 2nd and 3rd to advance our line beyond
Haut Allaines, another two miles east of Mont St. Quentin, routing from
the trenches of that spur the strong rearguards which the enemy had
posted for the purpose of delaying us.

On the night of September 4th the 74th Division took over the Haut
Allaines spur also, thereby releasing my Second Division, and the
latter was withdrawn to the Cappy area for a thorough and well-deserved

Meanwhile, the 32nd Imperial Division, availing itself of the temporary
crossings which had hastily been effected over the Somme, brought its
front up, on the eastern bank of the river, level with the line which
had by September 4th been reached by the Fifth Australian Division.

On September 5th, therefore, I had, east of the Somme, two Divisions in
the line, the 32nd on the right or south, the Fifth Australian on the
left or north, each operating on a frontage of two Brigades, with one
Brigade in reserve. This was, however, quite a temporary arrangement,
devised merely to allow time for the Third Division to reorganize and
resume its place in the front line of the general advance.

The general withdrawal of the enemy, over a very wide front, now began
to effect a very substantial reduction of the length of frontage which
he had to defend. The enemy communiqués and wireless propaganda of that
time busied themselves with the explanation that the withdrawals in
progress were being deliberately carried out for the very purpose of
releasing forces from the line to form a great strategic reserve.

These protestations did not deceive us, nor did we on our part fail
also to take full advantage of the steady shortenings of the Allied
front. Marshal Foch decided once again to readjust the international
boundary, and my own front was thereby considerably shortened. The
French took over from the 32nd Division all ground south of the main
Amiens--St. Quentin road; and that road henceforth became my southern

This, coupled with the readjustment of the northern boundary with the
Third Corps, as already narrated, reduced the total frontage for which
I remained responsible to about ten thousand yards, an extent which
was never again exceeded. It was still, however, in my judgment, too
long a frontage for an effective pursuit by only two Divisions, and
arrangements were initiated on the same day to bring back the Third
Division into line.

During September 5th I advanced my front to the line Athies--Le
Mesnil--Doingt--Bussu. Severe fighting took place near Doingt.
Opposition came mainly from machine guns; but isolated field-guns
also gave us trouble. We captured that day about a hundred and fifty

Next day my Third Division came into the line on the north. I divided
my frontage equally between the three Divisions, placing each on a
single Brigade front. This was, in fact, a repetition of the order of
battle which had carried us so successfully and rapidly up to the Somme.

Each front line Brigade took up the rôle of Advanced Guard to its
Division. The 11th Brigade led the Third Division; the 8th Brigade led
the Fifth Division, while the 97th Brigade covered the 32nd Imperial

For the first time in the war I found an opportunity of employing
my Corps Cavalry (13th Australian Light Horse) on other than their
habitual duty of carrying despatches, or providing mounted escorts to
convoys of prisoners of war. Here at last was a chance for bold mounted
tactics, as the county was mainly open and free of wire and trenches.

To each Division I therefore allotted a squadron of Light Horse for
vanguard duty, together with detachments of the Australian Cyclist
Battalion. These troops more than justified their employment by
bold, forward reconnaissance, and energetic pressure upon the enemy

So promising, indeed, was the prospect of the useful employment of
cavalry, that I prevailed upon the Army Commander to endeavour to
secure for my use a whole Cavalry Brigade. Brigadier-General Neil Haig
(cousin of the Field Marshal) was actually sent for and placed under
my orders. I duly arranged a plan of action with him, but before the
1st Cavalry Brigade, stationed many miles away, had completed its
long march into my area, the situation had already changed, and the
employment of Cavalry on the Fourth Army front had to be postponed
until a much later date.

A juncture had arrived when it became imperative for me to consider the
possibility of affording some relief to the three line Divisions; all
of them had been fighting without respite since August 27th. The troops
were so tired from want of sleep and physical strain that many of them
could be seen by the roadside, fast asleep. These three Divisions had
almost reached the limits of their endurance.

It was essential, however, that they should be called upon to yield
up the last particle of effort of which they were capable. Every mile
by which they could approach nearer to the Hindenburg defences meant
a saving of effort on the part of the fresh waiting Divisions, whom
I had earmarked for the first stage of our contemplated assault upon
that formidable system; a system which I knew to be too deep to be
overwhelmed in a single operation.

It was for this reason that I was compelled to disregard the evident
signs of overstrain which were brought to my notice by the Divisional
Generals and their Brigadiers, and which were patent to my own
observation of the condition of the troops. I arranged, however, two
measures of immediate relief, the first being to set a definite limit
of time for the further demands to be made upon the line Divisions.
This was fixed for September 10th. The second was to issue orders that
the rate of our further advance was to be controlled by consideration
for the well-being of our own troops, and not by the rate of the
enemy's retreat. If, in consequence, any gap should eventuate, touch
with the enemy was to be kept by the mounted troops and cyclists.

The preliminary steps for effecting the reliefs thus promised for
September 10th were begun on September 5th. The Corps was, as stated,
on a three Division front. I had only two fit Divisions in Corps
Reserve (_i.e._, the First and Fourth), the Second Division being
not yet rested. My representations to the Army Commander on this
matter bore immediate fruit; for he placed under my orders the Sixth
(Imperial) Division (one of the first seven Divisions of the original
Expeditionary Force). Before, however, I could take advantage of
this windfall, the constitution of the Fourth Army underwent a vital
alteration, of which more will be told later.

The First and Fourth Divisions had been resting since August 26th. They
had had time to reorganize their units, to reclothe and refit their
troops, to receive and absorb reinforcements, and to fill vacancies
among leaders. Staffs had been able to deal with a mass of arrears. The
men had enjoyed a pleasant holiday in the now peaceful Somme Valley,
far in rear, a holiday devoted to games and aquatic sports. Horse and
man, alike, were refreshed, and had been inspired by the continued
successes of the remainder of the Corps.

They were however, by now, far in rear; and it was out of the question
to tax their restored energies by calling upon them to march back to
the battle zone. The Fourth Army, as always, extended its sympathetic
help; two motor bus convoys, each capable of dealing with a Brigade
group a day, were speedily materialized from the resources of G.H.Q.

The completion of the moves of these two Divisions from the back area
to within easy marching distance of the battle front therefore occupied
three days. The use of mechanical transport for the execution of troop
movements has now entirely passed the experimental stage, and in future
wars, calculations of time and space will be vitally affected, whenever
an ample supply of lorries or buses and suitable roads are available
for the rapid concentration or dispersal of large bodies of troops.

The Australian soldier is individually philosophic and stoical, but
in the mass he is sensitive to a degree; and he is intelligent enough
to realize how he is used or misused. It was the subject of complaint
among the troops during the earlier years of the war, that while they
were indulgently carried by lorries into the battle at a time when they
were fresh and fit, they were invariably left to march long distances,
out of the battle, when they were on the verge of exhaustion. I
therefore tried, whenever possible, to provide tired troops with the
means of transport to their rest areas, a facility which was always
highly appreciated by them.

By the time the First and Fourth Divisions had thus been assembled in
the forward areas, ready to relieve the Third and Fifth Divisions,
these latter, together with the 32nd Division, had advanced our front
approximately to the line Vermand--Vendelles--Hesbecourt, carrying
it to within three miles of the front line of the Hindenburg defence

There can be no doubt, however, that the rate of our advance, retarded
as it had been for the reasons already explained, had proceeded much
more rapidly than suited the enemy.

A steady stream of prisoners kept pouring in, captured in twos and
threes, all along my front, by my energetic patrols. Numerous machine
guns were taken; and in the vicinity of Roisel, fully three hundred
transport vehicles and much engineering material were captured, which
the enemy had been compelled to abandon in haste.

At this juncture the British High Command arrived at the important
decision to enlarge the Fourth Army, by adding another Corps; doubtless
contemplating the possibility of operations on a large scale against
the Hindenburg defences in the near future.

A new Corps Headquarters, the Ninth, was to be reconstituted under
Lieut.-General Braithwaite, and he was to become my neighbour on my
southern flank, interposed between me and the French. Braithwaite
had been Chief of Staff to Sir Ian Hamilton during the Dardanelles
Expedition, and I had seen much of him there. I was to have the
advantage, therefore, of having old Gallipoli comrades on either flank,
Braithwaite on the south, and Godley on the north.

The immediate result of this decision, which came into effect early on
September 12th, was that the 32nd Division, which had been under my
orders for nearly four weeks, passed over to the Ninth Corps. Lambert,
his Staff and his Division had served me well and efficiently, and I
was sorry to lose them out of my Corps.

With the impending further shortening of my front, I had no
justification for pressing to be permitted to retain this Division. On
the contrary, my representations to General Rawlinson had always been
in favour of shortening my frontage to the effective battle standard
of August 8th, so that the Corps might at any time be in a position to
embark on a major operation, with its whole resources in Artillery and
Infantry concentrated, as on that occasion, upon a relatively narrow
objective. My greatly extended front, and the direct control of the
affairs of six separate Divisions, had been a heavy burden, involving
great and manifold responsibilities.

According to my promises to the remaining two line Divisions, the Fifth
and Third, these were duly relieved on September 10th by the First and
Fourth Divisions, the former on the north, the latter on the south.
Each Division had a frontage of about four thousand yards, but this was
to diminish rapidly, if the advance of the Corps continued, by reason
of the fact that my southern boundary now became the Omignon River,
whose course ran obliquely from the north-east.

While all these changes in dispositions were being effected, there
was breathing time to give attention to a heavy mass of arrears of
work; for there could be no question of undertaking an attack on the
Hindenburg defences without most careful and exhaustive preparation.

For this the time was not yet ripe. It would still take some days to
bring forward the remainder of my heaviest Artillery, to advance the
railheads, to replenish the ammunition depots and supply dumps, and to
re-establish telegraph and telephone communications.

Another good reason for a more leisurely policy on the front of the
Fourth Army lay in the events on other portions of the Allied fronts.
By September 4th the German withdrawal had become general on all fronts.

It had become clear that the enemy's retirement to his former position
of March, 1918, was not to be confined to those fronts on which he had
been receiving such punishment. All evidence pointed to the fact that
his present strategy was to take up as speedily as possible a strong
defensive attitude, behind the great system of field works, which had
already served him so well during 1917, at a time when a considerable
proportion of his military resources was still involved on the Russian
and Roumanian fronts.

His retirement before the First and Third British Armies was proceeding
methodically, and on September 5th the French were crossing the Vesle,
between Rheims and Soissons. All was going well; and those in the
confidence of our High Command knew that, on any day now, news might be
expected of the first great attack to be made by the American Army, to
be directed against the St. Mihiel Salient on the Alsace front.

This latter attack actually opened on September 11th, and it was
clearly sound military policy to wait for a few days, in order
correctly to diagnose the effect of these operations upon the enemy's
distribution of forces.

Information as to the locations and movements of all the enemy
Divisions was in these days voluminous, accurate and speedy. Prisoners
and documents were daily falling into the hands of the Allies over the
whole length of the Western Front. His Divisions in the front line were
identified daily by actual contact. As to those resting or refitting
or in reserve, accurate deductions could be made from the mass of
information at our disposal.

It was at this time that it began to be made clear to us that the
enemy's mobile reserves had been almost completely absorbed into the
front line. One Division after another, particularly among those which
had been engaged against the Australian Corps in August, was being
disbanded. Among these were the 109th, 225th, 233rd, 54th Reserve, and
14th Bavarian Divisions.

The strength of the enemy's remaining Divisions was also rapidly
diminishing. From prisoners we learned that many Battalions now
had only three Companies instead of four, many Regiments only two
Battalions instead of three, and even the Company strengths were at a
low ebb.

We could well afford to approach the immediate future with greater

Since August 8th, the Corps front had already advanced twenty-five
miles, and it was not long before I had to abandon the luxurious
château of the Marquis de Clermont-Tonnere, at Bertangles, whose
spacious halls and spreading parks had formed so pleasant a habitation
for the whole of my Corps Headquarters.

The scale of comfort possible for all senior Commanders and Staffs
rapidly declined as the advance developed. Generals of Corps, Divisions
and Brigades had to be content with living and office quarters in a
steadily descending gradation of convenience. From château to humbler
dwelling house, and thence into bare wooden huts, and later still into
mere holes hollowed out in the sides of quarries or railway cuttings,
were the stages of progress in this downward scale.

My Headquarters moved from Bertangles to a group of village houses at
Glisy on August 13th; thence on August 31st to Méricourt, where the
best had to be made of a derelict, much battered and almost roofless
château, which the Germans had rifled of every stick of furniture, and
even of all doors and windows, in order to equip a large collection of
dug-outs in a neighbouring hill-side.

Again on September 8th I moved into the very centre of the devastated
area lying in the Somme bend, on to a small rise near Assevillers,
where a number of tiny wooden huts served us as bedrooms by night and
offices by day. Only one hut, more pretentiously brick-walled and
evidently built for the use of some German officer of high rank, was
available to fulfil the duties of hospitality.

In spite of such discomforts, the daily life at Corps Headquarters
flowed on uninterruptedly in its several quite distinct activities. On
the one hand, there was the grim business of fighting, the detailed
conduct of the battle of to-day, the troop and artillery movements
for that of to-morrow, the planning of the one to be undertaken still
later; rounds of conferences and consultations; visits to Divisions and
Brigades, and to Artillery; reconnaissances to the forward zone; and an
intent and ceaseless study of maps and Intelligence summaries.

Hourly contact with Headquarters of Fourth Army and of flank
Corps had to be maintained. Then, following the day's strenuous
activities out of doors, there was at nights a never-diminishing mass
of administrative work, disciplinary questions, honours, awards,
appointments, promotions, and a formidable correspondence which must
not be allowed to fall into arrear.

Again, in the back areas there were the unemployed Divisions of
the Corps, who must be regularly visited, both at training and at
play. There were medals and ribbons to be distributed to the gallant
winners; addresses to be delivered; and the work of reorganizing
and refitting the resting units to be supervised. Still further in
rear, demonstrations of new experiments in tactics or in weapons, or
in mechanical warfare, had frequently to be attended, for study and

And lastly there was the social life of the Corps; for its performances
were beginning to attract attention beyond the limited, if select,
circles of the Fourth Army. A steady stream of visitors began to set
in. It was a necessary burden that suitable arrangements for their
reception and entertainment had to be maintained.

The duties of hospitality had been simple at a time when Corps
Headquarters was still housed in palatial châteaux, situated in country
hitherto untouched by the war, and within easy reach of all supplies.
It was a very different matter to offer even reasonable comfort to a
visitor at a time when Government rations constituted the backbone of
our fare, when there were only bare floors to sleep upon for those who
were not fortunate enough to possess a camp bed or valise, and when
even an extra blanket or pillow or towel was at a premium.

Yet we were always most glad to see visitors, and those of them who
were soldiers had, of course, a full understanding of our limitations.
It was not always so with others who, in the earlier years of the war,
when all Corps had a fixed location and had achieved a high standard of
domestic comfort, had been accustomed to an adequate reception.

Upon the whole, our guests were indulgent, and understood that the
stress of current events placed a very strict limit upon the amount of
time that the members of my Staff or I could devote to them.

[Illustration: MAP F]

Among many other distinguished men whom I had the honour to receive
were members of the War Cabinet, such as Lord Milner, then Secretary of
State for War, and Mr. Winston Churchill, the Minister of Munitions;
public men, such as Sir Horace Plunkett and Robert Blatchford; eminent
authors, such as Sir Conan Doyle, Sir Gilbert Parker and Ian Hay;
famous artists, such as Louis Raemakers, Streeton and Longstaff;
celebrated journalists, like Viscount Burnham, Thomas Marlowe and Cope
Cornford; together with many representatives of the Royal Navy, and of
the armies of our Allies, and Attachés from all the Allied Embassies.

The Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Haig, was a frequent caller, and
never departed without leaving a stimulating impression of his placid,
hopeful and undaunted personality, nor without a generous recognition
of the work which the Corps was doing.

General Birdwood, also, the former Corps Commander, who now commanded
the Fifth Army, paid several visits to the Corps, travelling long
distances in order to speak a few encouraging words to the Commanders
and troops with whom he had formerly been so long and so closely
associated. He, too, was always a most welcome visitor. Although since
the previous May he had ceased to control the fighting activities of
the Corps, this did not lessen the intense pride which he took in its
daily successes.

Many of our civilian visitors thirsted for the noise and tumult
of battle, and were most keen to get under fire, even if only of
long-range artillery fire. This was a constant source of anxiety to
me, for it was an unwritten law that the responsibility of their safe
sojourn in the Corps area rested with me. More often than not they
had to be dissuaded from visiting the forward zone, and induced to
spend their available time in inspecting some of our show spots in the
rearward areas, such as the Calibration ranges, or the Corps central
telegraph station, or the Tank park, or even the Prisoner of War Cages,
and the numerous depots of captured guns and war trophies.

The Corps prisoners' cage was always, throughout the period of our
active fighting, a scene both of great interest and much activity.
Although all prisoners of war had to be evacuated to the rear usually
within about twenty-four hours of their admission, and every day a
batch marched out under escort, yet the Corps cage between July and
October was never empty.

When early in July the stream of prisoners began to flow in, and
thereafter grew steadily stronger, my Intelligence Service, headed by
Major S. A. Hunn, rose thoroughly to the occasion. Among our troops
sufficient numbers of all ranks proficient in the German language
were speedily found. After a little training they learned to deal
expeditiously with the lengthy searchings and interrogations which
followed the arrival of all new-comers.

Documents of every description found upon prisoners excepting their
pay-books, were seized and examined. The German soldier is an
inveterate sender and recipient of picture postcards. It was surprising
how much information of an invaluable character could be gleaned from
a postcard. A date, a place name, the number of a Unit or Regiment,
the name of a Commander, reference to a train journey or a fight, are
often sufficient, when read by an expert in relation to the context,
to furnish definite information of the whereabouts of a Division, or
of the fact that it has been or is about to be disbanded, or of its
intended movement to some other part of the front, or of the losses
which it has suffered.

All these scraps of information, when compared with similar items
gathered on other fronts, soon enabled the whole story of all movement
that was going on behind the enemy's lines to be deduced from day to
day with wonderful completeness.

So, also, maps, sketches, copies of orders, or of battle instructions,
and the contents of note-books and of personal diaries always repaid
the closest scrutiny. Such study produced results which, even if not of
immediate value to me, were nevertheless passed on to the Army, and by
them broadly promulgated, in daily summaries, for the benefit of all
our other Corps.

The oral interrogation of the prisoners, particularly of officers,
often produced results of first-class importance. Information as
to dispositions, intentions, new tactical methods or new weapons
frequently emerged from these inquiries. It was rare that prisoners
refused to talk, and rarer still for them to attempt to mislead with
false information. If they did attempt it, the interrogating officer
was usually sufficiently well-informed upon the subject of inquiry to
be able to detect the inconsistency.

As the prisoners were invariably examined separately, it was never
difficult to discriminate between the true, upon which the majority of
them were in agreement, and the false, upon which the minority never

Should the prisoner prove uncommunicative or deceitful, then if he
were of sufficient education to make it worth while, the Intelligence
Officer had yet another method, besides direct questioning, at his

For a certain number of our own men, who could speak German fluently,
and who had been carefully tutored in their rôle, were provided with
enemy uniforms, and allowed to grow a three-days' beard, so as to
impersonate prisoners of war. These men, so equipped, were called
"pigeons." A pigeon would be ostentatiously brought under escort
into the prisoners' cage, and would sojourn for a day or more in a
compartment of it among the specially selected genuine prisoners. He
would indicate by a secret sign the time when he should himself be led
to the Intelligence Office for interrogation. It was seldom that he
came away empty-handed.

The demeanour of our captives, on reaching the cages, varied widely,
according to the stress which they had undergone. Some wore an air of
abject misery, and were thoroughly cowed and subservient. Others were
defiant, sulky and even arrogant.

Our treatment of them was firm, but humane. Physically, they had
nothing to complain of; they were fed and quartered on the same
standard as our own men. But they were given to understand from the
very outset that we would stand no nonsense, and that they must do
exactly what they were told. Few of them ever gave us any real trouble.

The subsequent employment of prisoners of war did not come under my
jurisdiction, and it was seldom that any prisoner working parties were
available to me. My Corps area rarely extended sufficiently far back
from the front line to carry it beyond the zone in which, by agreement
between the belligerents, the employment of prisoners of war was

Australian soldiers are nothing if not sportsmen, and no case ever
came under my notice of brutality or inhumanity to prisoners. Upon the
contrary, when once a man's surrender had been accepted, and he had
been fully disarmed, he was treated with marked kindness. The front
line troops were always ready to share their water and rations with
their prisoners, and cigarettes were distributed with a liberal hand.

On the other hand, the souvenir-hunting instinct of the Australian
led him to help himself freely to such mementos as our orders had not
forbidden him to touch. Prisoners rarely got as far as the Corps cage
with a full outfit of regimental buttons, cockades, shoulder-straps,
or other accoutrements. Personal trinkets, pay-books, money and other
individual belongings were, however, invariably respected; unless, as
often happened, the prisoners themselves were anxious to trade them
away to their captors, or escorts, for tobacco, chocolates, or other

Before I leave the subject of prisoners I should mention my impression
of the German officers, particularly of those who were more senior in
rank. Whenever a Regimental or Battalion Commander was captured, and
time permitted, he was brought before me for a further interrogation.
It was an experience which was almost universal that such officers were
willing to give me little information which might injure their cause;
on the other hand, they exhibited an altogether exaggerated air of
wounded pride at their capture, and at the defeat of the troops whom
they had commanded.

It was that feeling of professional pique which dominated their whole
demeanour. They were always volubly full of excuses, the weather, the
fog, the poor _moral_ of their own men, the unexpectedness of our
attack, the Tanks, errors in their maps--anything at all but a frank
admission of their own military inferiority.

There were two amusing exceptions to this experience. The day after
the fighting for Péronne, when a large batch of the prisoners then
taken was being got ready to march out of the Corps cage, officers in
one enclosure, other ranks in another, the senior German officer, a
Regimental Commander, formally requested permission to address some
eighty other officers present in the cage. This request was granted.

He told them that they had fought a good fight, that their capture was
not to their discredit, and that he would report favourably upon them
to his superiors at the first opportunity. He then went on to say that
on his own and on their behalf he desired to tender to the Australians
an expression of his admiration for their prowess, and to make a frank
acknowledgment to them that he fully recognized that on this occasion
his garrison had been outclassed, out-manoeuvred, and out-fought. The
whole assembly expressed their acquiescence in these observations by
collectively bowing gravely to the small group of my Intelligence
Officers who were amused spectators of the scene.

On another occasion--it was just after the battle of September 18th--I
was asking a German Battalion Commander whether he could explain why it
was that his men had that day surrendered in such large numbers without
much show of resistance. "Well, you see," said he, with a twinkle in
his eye, "they are dreadfully afraid of the Australians. So they are of
the Tanks. But when they saw both of them coming at them _together_,
they thought it was high time to throw up their hands."

But this story is slightly anticipatory. The short breathing-space
which had been afforded by our more leisurely advance towards the
Hindenburg system was over. By September 12th I was once again immersed
in all the perplexities of shaping means to ends. I had to decide, in
collaboration with the Army Staff and the Corps on my flanks, first,
the extent of the resources which would be required, and second, the
successive stages which would offer promise of success in overthrowing
the last great defensive system of all those which the enemy had
created upon the tortured soil of France.



The great Hindenburg system, by which name it has come to be known
to English readers, or the "Siegfried Line," as it is called by the
Germans, was brought into existence during the winter of 1916 and early
spring of 1917 in order to fulfil a very definite strategic purpose.
This was to put into effect, on a stupendous scale, a very elementary
principle of minor tactics, namely, that field works are constructed
for the purpose of reducing the number of men required to defend a
given front or locality.

In themselves, field fortifications have, of course, no offensive value
whatever, but their use permits a reduced number of men to defend one
place, in order that a greater number of men may be available to attack
another place.

The German High Command proceeded to make use of this principle on a
scale previously unknown in history. The whole of the Western front,
in Belgium and France, was to be held defensively throughout 1917. The
military resources required to defend that front were to be reduced
to a minimum, by the provision of a line of defences protected by
powerful field works, believed to be impregnable. This would liberate
the greatest possible resources for the Eastern front, where an end
could be made of the Russians and Roumanians there. As soon as these
were disposed of, those troops, guns and aeroplanes could again be
transferred to the West, in order similarly to dispose of the remainder
of our Alliance.

This great strategic plan was carried out in its entirety until the
middle of 1918. It was the great Hindenburg line which had been the
kernel of the whole conception, and, until the days which we are now
approaching, it had remained, practically over its whole length, an
impregnable barrier against the assaults of the French and British.

It is to be remembered that the very basis which justified the
expenditure of such enormous labour on the creation of these defences
was the saving in man-power. It is an accepted principle of tactics
that in any given battle the advantage always rests heavily on the side
of the defence. Where numbers, resources and _moral_ are equal, no
attack can hope to succeed.

If, in the teachings before the war, it was correct to say that a
Commander should hesitate to attack unless he had a preponderance
of men and guns of at least two to one, such a dictum assuredly did
not take into account field defences of the permanent and elaborate
character of the Hindenburg Line. I should hardly venture to fix a
ratio of relative strength appropriate in such circumstances.

But this much is clear. The Germans had once already relied
successfully upon the impregnability of this great work. They had every
justification for believing that it would once again serve them to
keep us at bay for just a few weeks longer. Winter was very near, and
the Entente peoples might not have been able to hold together to face
another year of war.

We, on our part also, had as much justification for the resolve that
every sacrifice must be made to overthrow these defences before the end
of 1918, and for believing that it would require a great, concerted and
intense effort to succeed in this.

It is quite necessary, for a due appreciation of the magnitude of the
effort which was actually made, and of the wonderful success with which
it was rewarded, that the nature of the defences of the Hindenburg Line
should be clearly understood. This can best be done, I think, by making
an endeavour to realize the sense of security which the possession of
such a line of defence must have afforded to the enemy. We are here
interested only in that portion of the line which extends from St.
Quentin northwards towards Cambrai.

Between these two cities the country is higher than that adjoining
it on the north and the south. It forms, therefore, a watershed,
dividing the basin of the Somme from that of the Scheldt. Early in
the nineteenth century, Napoleon realized the ambitious project of
connecting these two river systems by a great Canal scheme, cutting
right through this high country from south to north.

The canal is called, in its southern reaches, Canal de St. Quentin.
Before Cambrai is reached it merges into the Canal de l'Escaut.
Throughout the whole of that portion which concerns us, it runs in a
deep cutting, reaching, for great stretches, a depth of 50 to 60 feet.
In certain places where the ground rises still higher, the canal passes
through in great tunnels. The southernmost, or Le Tronquoy Tunnel,
near St. Quentin, is but short; the northern boasts of the imposing
length of 6,000 yards, and extends from Bellicourt,[19] at its southern
portal, to Le Catelet at its northern one. From that point northwards
the canal flows in "open cut" which gradually becomes shallower as
Cambrai is approached.

The canal excavation--except where the tunnels occur--itself affords
an excellent military obstacle, the passage of which could be stoutly
contested by resolute troops well dug in on its eastern banks, for
the descent and ascent of the slopes could be obstructed by wire
entanglements, and swept with fire. The water alone, which is too deep
to be waded, would seriously impede infantry, while the passage of
tanks, guns and vehicles would be impossible once the few high level
bridges over the canal had been destroyed.

Such an obstacle would not, however, of itself fulfil the requirements
of modern war, with its searching and destructive Artillery fire.
It was to be regarded more as the foundation upon which a complete
system of defences could be built, and as a last line of resistance _à

The canal had been, naturally, located by its engineers, in the lowest
ground available, so that its course closely follows the lines of the
minor valleys and depressions of the ground. On both sides, therefore,
the canal is flanked by somewhat higher ground, from which its
immediate banks can be overlooked. On the western side particularly,
there is a regular line of such higher plateaux on which the villages
of Villeret, Hargicourt and Ronssoy once stood.

It was clearly desirable both to deprive a besieger of such vantage
ground, and also to provide the canal defences with a stout outpost
defence. For these reasons, the Germans had constructed an elaborate
system of trenches on a line generally parallel to and on the average
a full mile west of the canal. These trenches had been perfected with
dug-outs, concrete machine gun and mortar emplacements, and underground
shelters. They were protected by belt after belt of barbed wire
entanglements, in a fashion which no one understood better, or achieved
more thoroughly, than the Germans.

But much more remained. Deep communication trenches led back to the
canal banks, in the sides of which tier upon tier of comfortable living
quarters for the troops had been tunnelled out. Here support and
reserve troops could live in safety and defy our heaviest bombardments.
They could be secretly hurried to the front trenches whenever danger

There was, indeed, a perfect tangle of underground shelters and
passages. Roomy dug-outs were provided with tunnelled ways which led to
cunningly hidden machine-gun posts, and the best of care was taken to
provide numerous exits, so that the occupants should not be imprisoned
by the blocking of one or other of them by our bombardment. But it was
the barbed wire which formed the groundwork of the defence. It was
everywhere, and ran in all directions, cleverly disposed so as to herd
the attackers into the very jaws of the machine guns.

The stretch of 6,000 yards of the canal which had been tunnelled was,
however, both a hindrance and a benefit to the perfection of the
scheme. On the one hand, the advantage of the open cut, as a last
obstacle, was lost. Its place had to be taken by a second complete
system of trench and wire defences, roughly following the line of the
tunnel, but of course far above the latter. On the other hand, the
tunnel itself afforded secure living accommodation for a substantial

The Germans had collected large numbers of canal barges, and had towed
them into the interior of the tunnel, mooring them end to end. They
served as living quarters and as depots for stores and munitions. It
was no great business to provide electric lighting for the tunnel.
Indeed, the leads for this purpose had been in existence before the
war. Here, again, underground shafts and ways were cut to enable the
troops rapidly to man the trenches and machine guns, and as rapidly to
seek a safe asylum from the heaviest shell fire.

The whole scheme produced, in fact, a veritable fortress--not one,
in the popular acceptation of the term, consisting of massive walls
and battlements, which, as was proved in the early days of the war
at Liége and Namur, can speedily be blown to pieces by modern heavy
artillery--but one defying destruction by any powers of gunnery, and
presenting the most formidable difficulties to the bravest of Infantry.

Even this was not all. On the east side of the St. Quentin Canal and
parallel to it were built still two further trench lines, both fully
protected by wire entanglements, and capable of determined defence. The
first of these is the Le Catelet line, about one mile distant from the
canal. It skirts and embraces the villages of Nauroy and Le Catelet,
while two miles still further east is the Beaurevoir line, the last or
most easterly of all the prepared defences which the Germans had in

Neither of these latter trench systems was nearly so formidably
prepared as the main systems previously described, but together with
them they go to make up the whole Hindenburg defensive system. In this
region that system runs generally due north and south, with many minor
convolutions in its line. It is altogether some 4½ miles across from
west to east.

As its overthrow could not be attempted in a single operation, it is
necessary for clearness of description to give definite names to each
of the successive lines of trenches which go to form the whole defence
system. Taking them in the order in which we attacked them, from west
to east, they will be referred to as:

  The Hindenburg Outpost line (known also in this part of
                              the field as the Hargicourt
  The Hindenburg main line (_i.e._, the Canal and Tunnel line).
  The Le Catelet line.
  The Beaurevoir line.

[Illustration: Australian Artillery--going into action at Cressaire

[Illustration: Battle of August 8th, 1918--German prisoners being
brought out of the battle under the fire of their own artillery.]

During the winter of 1917-1918 the British Fifth Army and the Germans
had faced each other in this region for many months. On our side, also,
a system of field defences had been developed. They fell far short,
indeed, of the completeness and ingenuity of the German works, because
the latter had been constructed at leisure, long before, while ours had
been built under the very fire of the German guns.

For months the opposing Artilleries had pounded the country to pieces,
effaced every sign of civilization, and churned up the ground in all
directions over a belt some three miles wide. Heaps of broken bricks
marked the sites of once prosperous villages. Broken telegraph poles,
charred tree trunks, twisted rails, a chaos of mangled machinery, were
the only remains of what had once been gardens, orchards, railways
and factories. The whole territory presented the aspect of a rolling,
tumbled desert from which life itself had been banished.

This was the region whose western verge the vanguard of the Australian
advance approached on September 11th, on a frontage of about 8,000
yards, the northern extremity directed on Bellicourt, the southern on
Bellenglise. That is to say, if our further advance had but continued
unimpeded in the same due easterly direction, it would have brought us
square upon the open excavation of the canal, and just clear and to the
south of the Bellicourt--Le Catelet tunnel. Some significance attached
to this circumstance, as will later appear.

Now, some little time before, an event of peculiar interest had
occurred. This was the capture, on another front, of a very
ordinary-looking transport vehicle loaded high with miscellaneous
baggage. Little escaped the inquisitive eyes of the British
Intelligence Service, which speedily discovered that among this baggage
there safely reposed a large collection of maps and documents. On
examination these proved to be nothing less than the complete Defence
Scheme of the whole "Siegfried" system, in that very sector which now
lay before the Australian Corps.

These papers were carefully overhauled and arranged. There were
dozens of accurately drawn detailed maps, and minute descriptions of
every tactical feature of the defences. The position of every gun
emplacement was given; every searchlight, machine-gun pit, observation
post, telephone exchange, command station and mortar emplacement was
clearly marked; the topographical and tactical features of the ground
were discussed in minute detail, and plans for the action of every
individual unit of the garrisons were fully displayed.

Naturally, an army of translators and copying clerks was set to work
upon this precious find, and my Intelligence Service was kept busy for
many days in making for me digests of those items likely to prove of
special interest. It had, of course, to be remembered that the Defence
Scheme had been brought into operation for the campaign of 1917, and it
remained to be seen to what extent it might by now have become obsolete.

It was hardly to be expected that the enemy would adhere to it in its
entirety, especially if he were aware, as I was bound to assume that
he was, that all this information had fallen into our hands. But the
Scheme contained a full exposition of many important topographical
facts which it was in any case beyond his power to alter, and which it
was of priceless value for me to know.

Although I had to devote hour upon hour to a concentrated study of
these papers, it proved to be in greater part labour in vain so far
as the Australian Corps was concerned, because it ultimately came
about that although I did carry out the attack upon the Hindenburg
outpost line in my present sector, the attack upon the Hindenburg
main line, which I was, later, called upon to make, took place in the
next adjoining sector to the north, _i.e._, the Bellicourt tunnel
sector, to which these captured documents only incidentally referred.
Nevertheless, the Ninth Corps, under Braithwaite, ultimately got the
full benefit of these discoveries.

The production of these documents on September 10th formed the
starting point of the discussions which were now initiated in the
Fourth Army upon the question of the series of operations necessary
to overthrow the Hindenburg defences. General Rawlinson, on September
13th, asked his three Corps Commanders (Butler, now restored to
health and back at duty, Braithwaite and myself) to meet him at my
newly-installed hutted camp at Assevillers. There, quite informally,
over a cup of afternoon tea, the great series of operations took birth
which so directly helped to finish the war.

It was decided that the operation must necessarily be divided into
two main phases--separated in point of time by an interval of several
days for further preparation. All of us recognized the impossibility
of overrunning, in a single day, so deep and formidable a system of
defences, in such tortured country, and in weather which was already
becoming unsettled.

The first phase was to be an attempt to capture the Hindenburg outpost
line, along the whole Army front. The French and the Third British
Armies were to be asked to make a synchronized attack on the same
objective. The three Corps of the Fourth Army were to attack upon the
frontages and in the sectors on which they then stood. The date was
left undecided, but all were to be ready at three days' notice.

One important consideration was the meagre supply of Tanks available.
The operations of August had been costly, not to say extravagant, in
Tanks, and General Elles' repair workshops, manned largely by very
competent Chinese coolie mechanics, had been working night and day ever
since to repair the minor damages, and new Tanks were steadily arriving
from England to replace those damaged beyond repair. But no large
contingent of Tanks was to be expected until towards the end of the
month. The upshot was that I was to be content with only eight Tanks
for use in the contemplated operation.

Late the same afternoon I communicated to Generals Maclagan and Glasgow
an outline of the probable rôle of their respective Divisions in the
very near future.

In the meantime, the front-line troops had not been idle. My orders
were that the First and Fourth Divisions were to carry the line
forward as far as possible towards the Hindenburg outpost line, without
committing the Corps to an organized attack. They were to operate by
vigorous patrol action against enemy points of resistance, for the
enemy had evidently no intention of quietly giving up the ground which
lay between us and the Hindenburg outpost line. On the contrary, he
had posted strong rearguards on every point of tactical value, and did
his best to keep us as long as possible at arm's length, and beyond
striking distance of his first great line of defence.

These orders were entirely to the taste of the two Divisions now in the
line. The First Division had served its apprenticeship to that very
kind of fighting in the Merris area in the previous spring, and the
Fourth Division did not mean to be a second best. Each Division stood
on a one-Brigade front, being ordered to keep its other two Brigades
well out of harm's way and resting, for any great effort that might be

The next few days witnessed some daring exploits on the part of the
13th Brigade of the Fourth Division and the 2nd Brigade of the First
Division in the capture of tactical points, and in the bloody repulse
of all attempts by the enemy to recapture them. In this way our line
was carried up to and a little beyond what had been the old British
reserve line of trenches of March, 1918, which lay within 5,000
yards of the final objective of the first phase of the contemplated

On September 16th I called together the whole of the Commanders
who were to participate in the next great battle, Maclagan (Fourth
Division), Glasgow (First Division), Courage (Tanks), Chamier (Air
Force), Fraser (Heavy Artillery), and the four Generals of my own
Staff. The conference took place in a Y.M.C.A. marquee erected near
Maclagan's Headquarters, and I was able to announce that the date had
been fixed for September 18th.

The contemplated battle presented only a few novel features. The
methods of the Corps were becoming stereotyped, and by this time we
all began to understand each other so well that most of what I had to
say could almost be taken for granted. Each Commander was ready to
anticipate the action that would be required of him, almost as soon as
I had unfolded the general plan.

The shortage of Tanks was a source of much anxiety to me. I felt that
it would mean a heavier risk to the Infantry, and the contemplation
of losses among our splendid men, which might be lessened by the
more liberal use of mechanical aids, always sorely troubled me. I
endeavoured to meet the situation by adopting two unusual expedients.

The first was to _double_ the machine-gun resources of the two battle
Divisions. This was effected by bringing up the complete machine-gun
battalions of the Third and Fifth Divisions, and adding them to those
of the line Divisions. This gave me a total of 256 Vickers Machine Guns
on a frontage now reduced to 7,000 yards. It enabled me to deliver
so dense a machine-gun barrage, advancing 300 yards ahead of the
infantry, that to quote the words of a German Battalion Commander who
was captured on September 18th: "The small-arms fire was absolutely too
terrible for words. There was nothing to be done but to crouch down in
our trenches and wait for you to come and take us."

The other expedient was amusing, although no less effective. This was
to make up for the shortage of real Tanks by fabricating a number of
dummy ones. As soon as the word went round Engineers and Pioneers vied
with each other in rapid "Tank" manufacture. Dumps and stores were
clandestinely robbed of hessian, paint, wire nails, and battens, and
some weird monstrosities were produced. The best and most plausible of
them were selected, and actually used on the day of the battle. Four
men dragged out each dummy, before dawn, into a position from which
it was bound to be seen by the enemy and there abandoned it. There
is little doubt that this trick contributed its share to the day's
astonishing success.

Once again, also, I put into practice the principle of an Artillery
barrage plan reduced to the utmost simplicity. This, as already
described, consisted in having the line, on which were to fall the
shells from the whole of the barrage guns employed, perfectly straight
across the whole front, so as to avoid all complexities in fire

The first line on which the barrage fell was called the Artillery
"Start Line," and from such a line the barrage advanced, by regular
leaps or "lifts" of 100 yards at a time, in perfectly parallel lines,
until the final objective was reached. Now, experience had shown that
such a start line for the Artillery should be at least 200 yards in
advance of the line on which the Infantry were to form up ready for
the assault. A liberal margin of space had to be allowed, in order to
minimize the risks to our own Infantry.

The Artillery "Start Line" was defined on our fighting maps. The guns
were laid upon it by methods which depended upon accurate surveys,
on the ground, of the exact position of every gun. When that had
been determined, the map and compass helped to decide the range and
alignment upon which the gun should open fire.

On the map, also, was drawn another line 200 yards short of, or on our
side of the Artillery "Start Line," and this was called the Infantry
"Start Line." It then became necessary to determine, upon the actual
ground, the position of this Infantry Start Line, and to mark it in
such a way that the Infantry would be enabled to take up their correct
positions. This would ensure that the Infantry would know that the fall
of our opening barrage would be 200 yards in advance of the line so

This delicate work of marking out of the Infantry Start Line on the
ground was invariably entrusted to the Engineers attached to the
Brigades co-operating in the attack. The marking was done by laying out
and pegging down broad tapes of white linen, which could be recognized
in the dim light of early dawn. The whole work, had, of course, to be
done unobserved by the enemy, and it was always a dangerous task.

Only the fact that we were in possession of reliable large scale
maps, recording every feature of the ground, made it possible for
the Engineers, resourceful as they were, to do this delicate work
with reasonable accuracy. The battered condition of the country was
always a difficulty; for it was never easy to recognize, on the
ground, reference points, such as a road intersection, or the corner
of a field, or a crucifix or similar land mark, which might aid the
surveyors in getting their bearings.

[Illustration: MAP G]

The Infantry Start Line had, naturally, to be located so that the
ground upon which the tapes were to be pegged down was ground which
was already within our possession, or accessible to us without coming
dangerously near the enemy. It was a necessary consequence that
portions of our always irregular front line of posts or trenches would
lie beyond or on the enemy's side of the tape line.

It was always a rule of our practice, therefore, that any Infantry
posted in advance of the taped line should be withdrawn, behind the
tapes, an hour before the time of Zero. It was also customary to order
that all assaulting troops should be spread, in their appropriate
dispositions, along the tape line, also one hour before Zero.

The result of these arrangements was that for the last hour before the
actual opening of the battle, all Infantry intended to take part in
the assault was deployed along the tapes in a perfectly straight line,
all along the battle front, while no troops previously in occupation
of posts or trenches in advance of the tapes were left out in front,
exposed to the risk of either being hit by our own Artillery, or
mistaken, in the half light of dawn, for enemies by our own Infantry.

Complex and difficult as these arrangements may appear from this
description, they worked out in actual practice with the utmost
smoothness. The resulting simplification of the Artillery plans, in
this as in similar previous battles, more than justified their adoption.

A liberal use was also made of direction boards, which marked the
routes by which each separate body of assaulting Infantry should,
during the last night, march from its place of assembly to the taped
line or "jumping off" line, and also to mark the position which it was
to take up upon that line. Each board had painted upon it the name of
the unit to which it referred. Such preparatory measures, troublesome
as they were, greatly reduced the risk of any confusion or mistake, and
lessened the fatigue of the assaulting troops.

The moon would set, on the morning of the battle, at 3.37 a.m., and the
sun would rise at 6.27 a.m. Zero hour, for the opening of the attack,
was therefore fixed for twenty minutes past five.

Operations began inauspiciously. A soaking rain set in some two hours
before, and made movement over the broken, clayey surface anything but
pleasant. Although the troops were soon drenched to the skin, this did
not in any way damp their spirits. It probably added much to the misery
of the enemy, who could hardly fail to realize that, on any morning, a
fresh attack might break upon him.

Modern war is in many ways unlike the wars of previous days, but in
nothing so much as in the employment of what I have more than once
referred to as "set-piece" operations. The term is one which should
convey its own meaning. It is the direct result of the great extension,
which this war has introduced, of mechanical warfare. It is a
"set-piece" because the stage is elaborately set, parts are written for
all the performers, and carefully rehearsed by many of them. The whole
performance is controlled by a time-table, and, so long as all goes
according to plan, there is no likelihood of unexpected happenings, or
of interesting developments.

The Artillery barrage advances from line to line, in regular leaps, at
regulated intervals of time, determined beforehand, and incapable of
alteration once the battle has begun. Should the rate prove too slow
and the Infantry could have advanced more quickly, it cannot be helped,
and no great harm is done. On the other hand, if there be any risk of
the barrage rate being too fast, one or two halts of ten or fifteen
minutes are often introduced into the time-table to allow the infantry
line, or any part of it which may be hung up for any reason, to catch

Following the barrage, comes line upon line of infantry in skirmishing
order, together with the line of Tanks when such are used. The foremost
lines advance to capture and hold the ground, the lines in rear to "mop
up" and deal with the enemy either showing fight or hiding underground,
the rearmost lines collect prisoners or our own wounded, or carry
supplies, tools and ammunition.

In a well-planned battle of this nature, fully organized, powerfully
covered by Artillery and Machine Gun barrages, given a resolute
Infantry and that the enemy's guns are kept successfully silenced by
our own counter-battery Artillery, nothing happens, nothing can happen,
except the regular progress of the advance according to the plan
arranged. The whole battle sweeps relentlessly and methodically across
the ground until it reaches the line laid down as the final objective.

Such a set-piece battle lasts usually, from first to last, for 80 to
100 minutes; seldom for more. When the Artillery programme is ended
the battle is either completely won, or to all intents and purposes
completely lost. If the barrage for any reason gets away from our
Infantry, and they are relegated to hand to hand fighting in order
to complete their advance, the battle immediately assumes a totally
different character, and is no longer a set-piece affair.

It will be obvious, therefore, that the more nearly such a battle
proceeds according to plan, the more free it is from any incidents
awakening any human interest. Only the externals and only the large
aspects of such battles can be successfully recorded. It is for this
reason that no stirring accounts exist of the more intimate details of
such great set-pieces as Messines, Vimy, Hamel and many others. They
will never be written, for there is no material upon which to base
them. The story of what did take place on the day of battle would be a
mere paraphrase of the battle orders prescribing all that was to take

On the other hand battles such as the second phase of August 8th,
the battle for Mont St. Quentin, and the later battles of Bony and
Beaurevoir were not set-piece operations. Therefore the developments
from hour to hour, and even from moment to moment, are full of intense
human interest, and replete with tales of individual courage and
initiative. Some day, when all the material has been gathered, an abler
pen than mine will write their story.

If the reader will bear in mind all these considerations, with special
reference to the battle of Hargicourt on September 18th he will
realize that, in describing the dispositions, the objectives, the
time-table and the preparations for the battle, I have told practically
all that there is to tell of the course it took, except only as regards
the results actually achieved, in ground won and prisoners taken.

It has been difficult, nevertheless, to refrain from dwelling in detail
upon the performances and experiences in battle of the individual
fighting men. Any attempt to do so would, however, prove hopelessly
inadequate. The numbers engaged were always so large, their activities
so varied, the conditions of each battle so different in detail, that
to do adequate justice and avoid unfair discrimination would make
impossible demands upon the space available to me.

Popular interest naturally centres upon the Infantry, not only because
they are the most numerous, but also because they are invariably in
the forefront of the battle and often in immediate contact with the
enemy. Without the slightest disparagement to the important rôle of the
Infantryman and to the valour which its performance demands, it must
never be forgotten that the work of the Artillery, Engineers, Pioneers,
Machine Gunners, Trench Mortars, Air Service and Tanks is in every way
equally important and essential to the success of any battle operation.
Yet it is equally true that no battle can be won without the Infantry.

In a deliberately prepared battle it is not too much to say that the
rôle of the Infantry is not, as a rule, the paramount one, provided
that all goes well and that there is no breakdown in any part of the
battle plan. That does not, however, imply that the Infantry task makes
no high demand upon courage and resolution. On the contrary, these
are the essentials upon which the success of the Infantry rôle and
therefore of the whole battle depends.

The primary duty of the Infantry, in an assault covered by an Artillery
barrage, is to follow up the barrage closely. The barrage is nothing
more nor less than a steady shower of shells, bursting over the very
heads of the leading lines of Infantry, and striking the ground some 80
to 120 yards in front of them. This shower is usually so dense that
three to four shells per minute fall on every twenty yards of frontage.
It is so intense a fire that no enemy, however courageous, could remain
exposed to it. It falls on one line for three or four minutes, while
the Infantry lie down flat. Suddenly, the barrage "lifts" or advances
100 yards. At a signal from the platoon or company commander the whole
line rises and rushes at top speed to catch up to the barrage, again to
throw itself flat upon the ground.

So long as no enemy are encountered, these successive rushes may go
on without check for hundreds of yards. If during the course of any
rush, trenches or strong points are met with and they contain enemy
who do not immediately surrender, prompt use must be made of rifle and
bayonet. But it is the primary business of the leading line of Infantry
to push on and not to delay by engaging in close combat. The second and
third lines of Infantry are there to "mop up," that is, to dispose, by
destruction or capture, of any enemy overrun or ignored by the leading
line. Where Tanks co-operate that is also their special business, and
when it has been attended to they go forward at top speed to rejoin the
leading line.

In such a methodical way the advance continues until the final
objective is reached. This event can be recognized by the Infantry
in any of three ways, firstly by reference to the clock time; for
the arrival of the barrage at any line on the map or ground occurs
in pursuance of a definite time-table; secondly by the topographical
features, and thirdly by the expedient of maintaining the barrage
stationary at the final objective for fifteen to thirty minutes. In
some battles, I also adopted the device of firing from every gun in the
barrage, three rounds of smoke shell in rapid succession, as a signal
to the Commanders of the leading line of Infantry to call the final
halt, to select a good line for trenches, and to dig-in rapidly, a
process technically called "consolidation."

It would be too much to hope that in an attack covering a front of four
or five miles, every part of the line should be able to advance without
any check whatever up to the final halting place. But the expectation
always is that by far the greater part of the whole line will be able
to do so. If, here and there along the front, platoons or even whole
companies were to be held up or delayed by special difficulties or
obstacles such as thickets, or copses strongly manned by the enemy, or
by belts of wire, or village ruins, such breaks in the general line of
advance would matter but little to the success of the operations as a
whole. The gaps discovered in the leading line of Infantry, when it
had come to a halt at the final objective, would be speedily filled by
supporting troops from both flanks of the gap, and thereby the enemy
holding out further back, would be completely enveloped. His surrender
would follow as soon as he realized his position, and that he had been
cut off from any contact with his friends in his rear.

Such is the normal course of the Infantry action in a pitched battle.
It makes great demands upon the iron resolution of the Infantryman to
push on vigorously against all obstacles, and to put forth his utmost
physical powers to keep up with the barrage, especially when the ground
is wet and sticky, or when uncut wire has to be crawled through. All
this he must do, utterly regardless of the enemy fire which may be
directed against him, whether from Artillery or machine guns. His best
hope of immunity is always to make his rush rapidly and determinedly,
and to get to ground immediately that he reaches the halting place,
close up to the barrage, when signalled by his officer.

Very different from such a stereotyped procedure is the action of the
Infantry in any operation or any part of an operation which partakes
of the character of open warfare. The main tactical purpose is still,
as before, to advance to the seizure of an appointed objective, but
there is no barrage, no time-table, no fixity of route, no prescribed
formation or procedure. Everything must be left to the judgment,
initiative and enterprise of the leader on the spot.

The tactical unit of Infantry is the platoon. The action of a whole
battalion is compounded merely of the separate actions of its sixteen
platoons, each performing the separate rôle, in a general plan, that
may be laid down by the Battalion Commanders, some to advance and
fight, some to act in support, some to lie in reserve, some to engage
in a flank attack, others to fetch and carry food, water and munitions.

The platoon is commanded by a Lieutenant and comprises four sections,
each under a Sergeant or Corporal. There are two sections of riflemen,
a Lewis gun section and a section of rifle grenadiers. Each section may
consist of from five to eight men. Let it be supposed that it is the
business of the platoon to capture a small farmhouse which the enemy
has fortified and in which he is holding out. Always supposing that the
enemy garrison is not of a strength requiring more than one platoon
for its capture the normal action of the attacking platoon would be
somewhat as follows. The Lewis gun section would, from a concealed
position, on one flank, keep the place under steady fire. The rifle
grenadiers from the same or another flank would fire smoke grenades to
make a smoke screen. One section of riflemen would endeavour to sneak
up depressions and ditches or along hedges, so as to get well behind
the farm and threaten it by fire from the rear. The other section of
riflemen would choose some direct line of attack, over ground which
offered concealment to them until they were close enough to take the
objective with a rush.

Such in very bare outline is merely an imaginary example, but it is
sufficient to show the amount of skill, resource and energy required on
the part not only of the leader, but also of every man in the platoon.
The secret of success of the Australian open fighting lay in the
extraordinary vigour, judgment and team-work which characterized the
many hundreds of little platoon battles which were fought on just such
lines as I have tried to suggest in this example.

It will be readily seen that no comprehensive description is possible
which would present an adequate picture of the widely varying
activities of the Australian Infantryman in this campaign. There is
only one source from which reliable narratives of individual fighting
can be gathered, and that source is so voluminous that space forbids
any but a meagre attempt to supply extracts from it. I refer to
the recommendations made by Commanders for honours and rewards for
individual acts of gallantry. A very small selection of these has been
made and is presented in an appendix to this book.[20]

But to return to my narrative of September 18th. On that day each
Division attacked on a frontage of two Brigades. No serious opposition
was encountered except at La Verguier, which was not far from our
start line. Nevertheless, the whole of the "red" line, which was the
objective of the "set-piece" phase of the day's battle, was in our
possession, throughout the whole length of the Corps front, well before
10 o'clock.

This gave us complete possession of the old British front line of
March, 1918; but the Hindenburg outpost line yet lay before us, still
distant another 1,500 to 2,000 yards. This latter line was to be the
ultimate or exploitation objective of the day's operations, and I could
hardly have dared to hope that a trench system of such considerable
strength, which had defied the Fifth Army for so long, would fall into
our hands so easily as it did.

Glasgow's Division pushed on without pause, and before nightfall had
overwhelmed the garrison of the Hindenburg outpost line along its
front. Maclagan's Division also fought its way forward to within
500 yards of that line. But the troops were by then very exhausted;
all movement was in full view of the enemy; and the ground was very
difficult. After a consultation with Maclagan I decided to rest the
troops, and to make an attempt to reach the final objective (blue line)
that same night.

Advantage was taken of this pause to advance the Artillery, so that
the enemy's defences could be thoroughly bombarded before the final
assault. At 11 o'clock the same night, the Fourth Division again
attacked, and after severe fighting also captured the whole of the
objective trench system.

It was a great victory. The Hindenburg outpost line had been
vanquished. From it we could now look down upon the St. Quentin Canal,
and sweep with fire the whole of the sloping ground which lay between
us and the Canal, denying the use of that ground to the enemy, and
making it impossible for him to withdraw the guns and stores which
littered the area.

The overwhelming nature of the success can best be realized by the
following almost incredible analysis of the material results of the
day's fighting. The First Division attacked with a total strength of
2,854 Infantry. They suffered only 490 casualties (killed and wounded).
They captured 1,700 prisoners, apart from the large numbers who were
killed, and the wounded enemy who made good their escape.

The Fourth Division had a total assaulting strength of 3,048 of all
ranks, of whom 532 became casualties. Their captures of live prisoners
amounted to 2,543.

In addition, the Corps gathered in upwards of 80 guns, which had been
overrun, and had to be abandoned by the enemy.

There is no record in this war of any previous success on such a scale,
won with so little loss.

The Corps on either flank of me had successes of varying quality. The
Ninth Corps on the south had reached the red line, but the exploitation
phase of the operation was not pressed until a later day. The Third
Corps, on my left, however, made indifferent progress. Their line still
bent back sharply from my left flank, and none of the enemy's outpost
system had been gained. This portion of the Army front was that which
lay square opposite the Bellicourt tunnel, and the fact that in this
part of the field the Fourth Army had not yet mastered the Hindenburg
outpost system was to be fraught with very serious difficulties for me,
not many days later.

The general plan propounded by General Rawlinson on September 13th had
been realized in part, although not in its entirety. The successes
gained on September 18th were nevertheless sufficiently important and
decisive to justify immediate preparations for working out the plan
for a great, combined and final effort to sweep the enemy out of the
remainder of the last lines of defence which he had established in

The First and Fourth Australian Divisions had, however, as it turned
out, fought their last fight in the war. Their long and brilliant
fighting career, which had been opened three and a half years before,
the one on the cliffs of Gallipoli, and the other in the desert of
Egypt, thus ended in a blaze of glory. Although a number of the
officers and non-commissioned officers of both these Divisions were
called upon, very shortly after, to render one more valuable service to
the Australian Corps, the Divisions themselves were destined, because
of the termination of hostilities, not again to make their appearance
on any battle front. Their labours ended, the troops were taken by
motor bus and railway to a coastal district lying to the south-west of
Amiens, there to rest and recuperate in the contemplation of a noble
past devoted to the service of the Empire.


[19] See Map H.

[20] See Appendix B.



I had foreseen that the battle to be fought on September 18th was the
last in which the First and Fourth Divisions could be called upon
to participate during the remainder of the 1918 campaigning season.
The wastage of their Battalions had gone on faster than the inflow
of fresh drafts, or the return of convalescent sick and wounded.
These two Divisions contained the original sixteen Battalions who had
immortalized themselves, in 1915, in the landing on Gallipoli. I was
strongly averse from disbanding any one of them to furnish drafts for
the remainder. My hope then was that, if these Divisions could be
allowed to rest over the winter, they could be sufficiently replenished
by the spring of 1919 to be able to maintain all sixteen Battalions at
a satisfactory fighting strength.

Of the remaining three Divisions, the Third and Fifth required at least
another week's rest; and I had promised the Second Division that after
their heroic efforts at Mont St. Quentin, they would not be again
called upon until towards the end of September. I would thus be left
with insufficient resources to maintain an immediate continuance of the
pressure upon the enemy.

On explaining the situation to General Rawlinson, he suggested the
interesting possibility of being able to obtain, very shortly, the
services of the Second American Corps of two Divisions, and asked me
whether I would be prepared to accept the responsibility of taking this
large force under my command for the continuance of the operations.

I had no reason to hesitate. My experience of the quality of the
American troops, both at the battle of Hamel and on the Chipilly spur,
had been eminently satisfactory. It was true that this new American
Corps had no previous battle service, but measures were possible to
supply them with any technical guidance which they might lack.

I therefore accepted the suggestion, and Rawlinson then asked me
to submit a proposal for a joint operation to take place towards
the end of the month by these two American and the remaining three
Australian Divisions, with the object of completing the task, so well
begun, of breaking through the Hindenburg defences. I was to propose
my objectives, to show how I intended to employ each of the five
Divisions, and also to set out my requirements in Artillery, Tanks and
other services.

It was anything but an easy task, and it had to be undertaken at a time
when the preparations for the battle of Hargicourt were uppermost in
my mind. Much time also had to be devoted to numerous distinguished

The outcome was a letter to the Fourth Army which foreshadowed, almost
in its entirety, the battle plan which subsequently was actually
employed. The substance of this letter is here reproduced. The text has
been modified only by the omission of the reference letters to a large
coloured map which accompanied it:

  Corps Headquarters,
  18th September, 1918.

  _Fourth Army._

1. I beg to submit the outlines of a plan for a series of
operations for the capture of the Hindenburg Line in the Sector
Bellicourt-Vendhuille, based upon the expectation that two American
Divisions will be available immediately to supplement this Corps.

2. The resources of the Corps in Infantry, which will be available,
are exclusive of the First and Fourth Australian Divisions,
although the Artillery, Technical Troops and Machine Gun Battalions
of those Divisions will continue to be available.

3. The plan is based upon the assumption that the objective Blue
Line of the operations of September 18th is in our possession all
along the Army Front, or can be seized in the very near future.

4. The accompanying Map shows the coloured lines referred to in the
following description, as also the reference letters in blue.

5. This plan is in outline only, and the various objective lines
and boundaries suggested are merely tentative, to form the basis
for a general plan.

6. The Blue Line is the line of eventual exploitation for the
operations of September 18th.

7. The present Corps front on the Blue Line extends a distance of
6,000 yards. It is suggested, either that the Corps front should be
extended to a total frontage of 10,000 yards, or that it should be
side-slipped northwards to a frontage of 6,000 yards. The latter
would obviously be preferable, so far as the Corps is concerned,
as enabling all its resources to be concentrated upon a smaller

8. The major outlines of the plan are as follows:

  (a) An attack by two American Divisions for the capture of the
  Green Line.

  (b) A subsequent attack by two Australian Divisions for the capture
  of the Red Line.

  (c) Exploitation by the Cavalry from the Red Line, in an Easterly
  and north-easterly direction.

  (d) A turning movement by the Ninth Corps, through Bellicourt
  and Nauroy to turn the Canal defences, operating from north to
  south--or alternatively.

  (e) A turning movement by the Third Corps, operating through Le
  Catelet northwards.

9. The details of the above plan will run on the following lines:

  (a) The new Corps front to be taken over at the earliest possible
  moment by two American Divisions, each Division deploying for this
  purpose only one Regiment of one Brigade. This will place in Line
  six Battalions on the Corps front, giving each Battalion about
  1,000 yards. These troops will hold the line defensively, and
  will, with the assistance of technical troops, prepare the battle

  (b) The battle troops of the two American Divisions will thus
  comprise three Regiments or nine Battalions for each Division. The
  allocation of objectives to these troops will be as follows:

  (i) One Brigade (two Regiments) of the right Division to advance
  4,500 yards on a frontage of 3,000 yards. This Brigade (six
  Battalions) would attack with four Battalions in Line (750 yards
  frontage each) and two Battalions in support for "mopping up"
  duties. Its principal objective, apart from the main trench
  systems, is Bellicourt.

  (ii) Similarly, one Brigade (two Regiments) of the left Division,
  with similar dispositions. Its principal objective, apart from the
  main trench systems, is Catelet.

  (iii) The odd Regiment of the right Division to be responsible for
  forming the south defensive flank.

  (iv) The odd Regiment of the left Division to be responsible for
  forming the north defensive flank.

  (c) It will be noted that the Green Line has been drawn so as to
  include all ground giving good observation northward, eastward and
  southwards, and to deny observation to the enemy. It is probable that
  the Field Artillery barrage will not be able to penetrate to the
  extreme limits of this proposed objective along the whole battle front
  without moving forward some of the batteries, particularly in the
  Northern Divisional Sector. This will probably necessitate a halt of
  an hour or an hour and a half, to enable Artillery to be advanced.

  (d) Assuming that the battle opens about 6 a.m., the Green Line should
  be reached by 10 a.m. or earlier. By mobilizing ample resources in
  technical troops, both American and Australian, and ample tools and
  engineering material, it should be easily possible to construct not
  less than four roads, sufficiently developed for horse transport, from
  the Blue Line to the Green Line, by 2 p.m. These roads would be
  located so as to make use of existing roads, and trench crossings
  would be made by filling in with earth and not by bridging. It is
  estimated, therefore, that Mobile Artillery could move forward not
  later than 2 p.m. on Zero day.

  (e) The Australian Infantry of two Divisions would move at such an hour
  as would enable them to reach and be deployed upon the Green Line by 2
  p.m., shortly after which hour they would be joined by the necessary
  Mobile Artillery. This phase of the operation would also involve the
  capture of the Beaurevoir Line. It is assumed that Tanks would be
  available to deal with the crossing of the wire entanglements covering
  this line.

  (f) The completion of the defensive flanks would be allocated to
  American troops.

  (g) As soon as the Australian Infantry had passed the Green Line, the
  four American Regiments who had participated in the capture of the
  Green Line, would be concentrated, refitted and rested for operations

10. The following considerations should be kept in view, in connection
with this plan.

  (a) There should be sufficient Field Artillery, not merely to
  provide an effective barrage for the time-table advance to the
  Green Line and its flanks, but also, in addition, sufficient
  Mobile Field Artillery, not employed in the barrage, to enable the
  Australian Infantry to be provided with at least six Artillery
  Brigades for the exploitation phase of the operation.

  (b) There should be at least 60 Tanks available for the first
  phase, in order absolutely to guarantee the breaching of the main
  Hindenburg trench systems. There should, in addition, be available
  not less than 30 Tanks to assist the Australian Infantry through
  the Beaurevoir Line.

11. There should be a systematic destructive bombardment of the
whole of the Hindenburg trench system on the battle front, lasting
at least four days, in order not merely to destroy the defensive
organization, but also to demoralize and starve the trench garrisons.
This destructive bombardment should extend a considerable distance to
the north and south of the battle front.

12. The rapid construction of usable roads, both for horse transport
and mechanical transport, across the Canal tunnel, would have to be a
special feature of the organization, so that the whole of our battle
organization could be rapidly carried forward to maintain the battle
eastward of the Red Line. This would involve the mobilization of a
large amount of mechanical transport, ready loaded with road-stone,
so that road-making can commence after Zero hour without any delay.
For these works, there would be available the greater part of the
Australian and American technical troops of seven Divisions, as well as
Army Troops Companies.

  Commanding Australian Corps.

Some comment is necessary upon this proposal. The composition of the
American Divisions, following the French and not the British precedent,
differed materially from my own Divisions. The American Division
consisted of two Brigades, each of two Regiments, each of three
Battalions. Its total strength was nearly double that of an English

It will be noted that my proposal involved a concentrated attack, not
upon the canal, but upon that sector of 6,000 yards which lay over the
Bellicourt-Catelet tunnel. This zone at that time lay clear of and to
the north of my Corps area, and that is what involved the necessity of
"side-slipping" the Corps front to the north.

[Illustration: Mont St. Quentin--Collecting Australian wounded under
the protection of the Red Cross flag, September 1st, 1918.]

[Illustration: An Ammunition Dump--established in Warfusee village on
August 8th, 1918, after its capture the same morning.]

Moreover, I put forward no suggestion that the Canal sector, then in
front of me, should be the subject of a frontal attack at all. My
proposal was that it should be taken by envelopment, through the breach
to be made over the tunnel. At the time I regarded it as unlikely that
the deep canal itself could be stormed except at great cost. I was not
prepared to commit any Australian troops under my command to such an
enterprise, and therefore naturally hesitated to propose that any other
Corps should attempt it. For this reason I submitted an alternative
plan of envelopment.

This was, however, a matter for the Army Commander to decide. My
business was merely to show that the proposed action of my own Corps
permitted of the co-operation of the other Corps of the Army in a
specified way.

General Rawlinson's decisions were given on September 19th, at a
conference which he assembled at my Headquarters. My plan for the
action of the Australian and American Corps was to be adopted in its
entirety, with the sole exception that the capture of the Beaurevoir
line, on the first day of battle, was not to be included in the plan.
It was to be left to await the results of the prior stages. In this
modification I could readily concur.

As regards the action of the flank Corps, General Rawlinson held the
view that a direct assault on the canal itself ought to be attempted,
and that this should be entrusted to the Ninth Corps. He was doubtless
influenced, in this view, by the knowledge, disclosed to us for the
first time on that day, that he intended to propose that the attack on
the Hindenburg Line would, if undertaken, extend over the front of at
least three Armies, the French on the south, and the Fourth and Third
British Armies. Such a simultaneous attack, over a very wide front,
would naturally increase the prospects of success for every Corps

As to the Third Corps, it was to take part only in the preliminaries of
the battle, and not in the battle itself. Another Corps, the Thirteenth
(Lieut.-General Sir T. L. N. Morland) was to join the Fourth Army.
If the Australian Corps succeeded in effecting the breach of the
Hindenburg Line as I had proposed to do, it was to be the Thirteenth
Corps, and not the Third Corps, which, pouring through the breach, was
to envelop the flank of the Hindenburg Line towards the north.

The main consideration that affected me was the approval of my plan for
the action of the two American and three Australian Divisions. I was
able to begin immediately the development in detail of that plan, a
task which proved at once the most arduous, the most responsible, and
the most difficult of any that I have had to undertake throughout the
whole of the war.

The first step was to get the American Divisions into the line opposite
their prospective battle fronts, and the next was to hand over what had
hitherto been the Australian Corps front to the Ninth Corps.

The Ninth Corps battle front was to extend from Bellenglise to
Bellicourt, mine from opposite Bellicourt to opposite Le Catelet.

The necessary troop movements and inter-divisional reliefs required
nearly a week for their completion. By the evening of September 23rd,
the last of the two Australian Divisions had been relieved by the
Americans and the Ninth Corps, and on that night these stood on their
respective battle frontages. I took over command of this new front,
thus manned by Americans, in the forenoon of September 25th.

It is a somewhat noteworthy circumstance, but one which attracted no
attention at the time, that between September 25th and September 29th,
there was a period of five days during which _no_ Australian troops
were in the front line in any part of the French theatre of war. This
was a situation which had never arisen since the first contingent of
Australians arrived from Egypt in April, 1916. For nearly two and
a half years, there had never previously been a moment when some
Australians had not been confronting the enemy, somewhere or other in
the long battle front in France.

I have said that I had been called upon to undertake the responsibility
of directing in a great battle two Divisions (the 27th and 30th) of
United States troops, numbering altogether some 50,000 men. These had
been organized into a Corps, called the Second American Corps, and
commanded by Major-General G. W. Read. It was certainly anomalous
that a whole organized Corps should pass under the orders of a Corps
Headquarters of another nationality, but in authorizing such an
arrangement, General Rawlinson relied upon the good sense and mutual
forbearance of the Corps Commanders concerned.

I am bound to say that the arrangement caused me no anxiety or
difficulty. General Read and his Staff most readily adapted themselves
to the situation. He established his Headquarters quite close to my
own, and gave me perfect freedom of action in dealing direct with his
two Divisional Commanders, so far as I found it necessary to do so.
Read was a man of sound common sense and clear judgment, a reserved but
agreeable and courteous personality. His only desire was the success of
his Divisions, and he very generously took upon himself the role of an
interested spectator, so that I might not be hampered in issuing orders
or instructions to his troops. At the same time, I am sure that in his
quiet, forceful way he did much to ensure on the part of his Divisional
Commanders and Brigadiers a sympathetic attitude towards me and the
demands I had to make upon them.

The Australian Corps had specialized in comprehensive and careful
preparations for battle. Its methods had been reduced to a quite
definite code of practice, with which every Staff Officer and Battalion
Adjutant had, by experience, become intimately familiar. All this
procedure was a closed book to the American troops, and they were
severely handicapped accordingly.

I therefore proposed to General Read, and he gratefully accepted, the
creation of an "Australian Mission" to his Corps, whose rôle would
be to act as a body of expert advisers on all questions of tactical
technique, and of supply and maintenance. This idea once accepted was
worked out on a fully elaborated scale.

To the head of this Mission I appointed Major-General Maclagan, not
only to command the personnel of the Mission itself, but also to live
with and act as adviser to General Read's own Staff. The Mission
comprised a total of 217 men, chosen from the First and Fourth
Australian Divisions, and consisted of specially selected and very
experienced officers and N.C.O.'s. The American Corps Headquarters
was provided with a Major-General, assisted by one General Staff, one
Administrative, one Signal, one Intelligence, and one Machine Gun
Staff Officer. Each American Division had assigned to it an Australian
Brigadier-General, assisted by several Staff Officers; each American
Brigade had an Australian Battalion Commander and Signal Officer; and
so on down the chain. Each American Battalion, even, had four highly
expert Warrant or Non-commissioned officers to advise on every detail
of supply, equipment and tactical employment of the troops.

By such an arrangement it became possible to talk to the whole American
Corps in our own technical language. This saved me and my Staff a vast
amount of time and energy, because the members of this Mission acted
as interpreters of the technical terms and usages customary in the
orders and maps of the Australian Corps, which were necessarily quite
unfamiliar to the American troops.

Maclagan was a man eminently fitted for this task. In appearance and in
temperament he is every inch a soldier. Of all my Divisional Commanders
he was the only one who, immediately before the war, was a professional
soldier of the Imperial Army. Although not Australian born, he was
whole-heartedly Australian, for he had spent some years as Director of
Military Training at the Royal Military College at Duntroon. On the
outbreak of war he received the command of the 3rd Australian Brigade,
and with it carried out the most difficult preliminary phase of the
landing on the Gallipoli peninsula. He commanded the Fourth Australian
Division from the autumn of 1917 until the conclusion of hostilities.
His characteristic attitude of mind, so strongly in contrast to that
of Rosenthal, was pessimistic. But that was not because he looked for
difficulties, but because he preferred squarely to recognize and face
all the difficulties there were. Yet he never failed in performance,
and invariably contrived to do what he had urged could not be done. One
could not afford to take him at his own modest estimate of himself.
Both he and his Division always bettered any promise they gave.

I entertain no kind of doubt that it was only because of the creation
of this Australian Mission to the Americans, and of Maclagan's tact,
industry and judgment in controlling it, that the combined action of
the two Corps in the great battle of the closing days of September
proved as successful as it did. Under no other conditions would it have
been possible to bring about any reasonable degree of co-operation
between two forces whose war experiences, outlook, attitude towards
their problems, training and temperament were so fundamentally

It is not necessary to indulge in either a panegyric or a condemnation
of these American Divisions. Neither would be deserved or appropriate.
They showed a fine spirit, a keen desire to learn, magnificent
individual bravery, and splendid comradeship. But they were lacking in
war experience, in training, and in knowledge of technique. They had
not yet learned the virtues of unquestioning obedience, of punctuality,
of quick initiative, of anticipating the next action. They were, many
of them, unfamiliar with the weapons and instruments of fighting, with
the numerous kinds of explosive materials, or with the routine of
preparing and promulgating clear orders. They seriously underrated the
necessity for a well-organized system of supply, particularly of food
and water, to the battle troops. They hardly, as yet, appreciated the
tactical expedients available for reducing losses in battle.

Yet all these shortcomings were the results only of inexperience,
and it is perhaps unfair to contrast them with the Australian troops
who had seen front-line service in France for two and a half years
continuously, and whose leaders, high and low, had served a long and
graduated apprenticeship in every branch of their duties.

The Australian Mission assisted greatly to minimize these difficulties.
Although its members were vested with no executive powers, their advice
and help were eagerly sought, and zealously adopted. In many ways,
large and small, their assistance must have proved invaluable. How to
interpret orders from above and how to issue them to those below, how
to draw stores and how to distribute them, how to organize the signal
service and how to ensure a flow of information--these ranked among the
greater matters. In quite small things also, help was needed, such as
the way to detonate mortar bombs, to equip the infantryman for battle,
to organize and use the messenger (_i.e._, runner) service, and to keep
battle stations clear of people who had no urgent business there.

It is not, of course, intended to convey that all these defects were
present in every regiment. Some, however, were met with, by the
officers of the Australian Mission, in all of them.

It greatly added to the burden cast upon the American Divisions that
they were called upon to fight almost as soon as they had taken up duty
in the line. The necessity for this was really a legacy from the Third
Corps, whom they had relieved, and it is essential for an understanding
of the course of events during these days to narrate them in proper
chronological order.

I have explained that as the result of the battle of Hargicourt, the
Australian Corps had succeeded in mastering the whole of the Hindenburg
outpost line opposite its front, as far as a point a little north of
and opposite to Bellicourt. The advance of the Third Corps, however,
had failed to reach the same line, and had stopped short of it by an
average distance of nearly a thousand yards. On my pointing out that
the front I had taken over did not comply with the stipulations which I
had made in my battle plan,[21] the Army Commander decided that prior
to the main attack, the northern of the two American Divisions should
make good this shortage, by an attack aiming at the capture of the
remainder of the Hindenburg outpost line opposite the tunnel sector.

I must now anticipate an explanation of the main outlines of the plan
which I had prepared for the great battle, by a brief reference to the
situation and disposition of troops on September 25th. The two American
Divisions were respectively the 30th, commanded by Major-General Lewis,
on the right or south, and the 27th, commanded by Major-General O'Ryan,
on the left or north, each lying on a frontage of three thousand yards.
These two Divisions comprised, in all, eight regiments, each of three
battalions. I had instructed each of them to place one regiment in the
line, and to keep the remaining three, _i.e._, six in all, in reserve,
for the main operation.

My first Corps conference dealing with the forthcoming operations
was held at my Headquarters at Assevillers, on September 23rd. The
American Generals Read, Lewis and O'Ryan, with their respective Staffs,
attended, as also did the Australian Generals Maclagan, Brand and
Mackay, who were members of the Australian Mission to the American
Corps. None of the Australian Commanders destined to take part in the
operations attended on this day, for two reasons, firstly, because I
intended to confine myself entirely to that portion of the operation
which concerned the American troops only, and secondly, because the
date of the battle had not then been decided, and I wished to run no
risk of confusing executive action by any premature announcements to
the Australians, which subsequent events might modify.

The American rôle, had, however, sufficiently crystallized to enable
me to explain it to the assembled Generals in great detail. As
will subsequently appear, it was a plan which had, intentionally,
been reduced to the simplest possible elements. It was to be a
straightforward trench to trench attack, from a perfectly straight
"jumping off" line to a perfectly straight objective line, under a
dense Artillery and Machine-Gun barrage, and with the assistance of a
large contingent of Tanks.

The advance was to be at a deliberate pace, and if due regard were had
to a few elementary precautions, should prove a simple task for the
American Infantry. It was, indeed, on quite stereotyped lines, such as
had so often carried the Australian Infantry to victory in set-piece
battles such as Messines, Broodseinde, Hamel and the first phase of
August 8th.

It was, however, borne in upon me, very soon after this Conference
opened, that I was now confronted with quite a different proposition
from that to which I had been accustomed in the conferences attended by
my own Divisional Generals. The exposition of the plan itself was brief
and simple, but it elicited such a rain of questions, that in the end
I found myself compelled to embark upon a very detailed exposition of
the fundamental principles of my battle practice.

With blackboard and chalk, maps and diagrams, I had to speak for more
than three hours in an endeavour to explain methods and reasons,
mistakes and remedies, dangers and precautions, procedures and
expedients. The proceedings left me with no doubt that the American
Generals became fully informed as to the tasks and duties allotted to
them, and fully understood them.

In the light of after events, I am not so sure that they succeeded in
passing on the information to their subordinates--not by reason of any
shortcomings on their own part, for they impressed me as able, strong
men--but because their Divisions had not yet learned the methods and
machinery of effectively and rapidly conveying instructions to large
bodies of troops.

In one particular, subordinate though vital, there certainly was a
serious failure to reach the troops. The enemy had, during 1916, met
our assault tactics with an answer which proved disastrously effective
against us until we had learned how to meet it. He provided his trench
systems with many and roomy shell-proof dug-outs. Whenever our barrage
fell upon his trenches, his garrisons promptly took cover in these
dug-outs. When our assaulting infantry reached the enemy trenches they
found but few of the enemy there, and they rushed headlong forward to
the next objective trenches. From out of their dug-outs streamed the
enemy, faced about, attacked our assaulting lines in rear and withered
them with fire. Many an attack by the British on the Somme failed for
just such reasons.

In 1917 we evolved, and applied for the first time at the battle of
Messines, an effective answer to such tactics. Close on the heels of
our first line of assaulting troops came a second line, whose rôle
was to occupy the captured trench immediately, and to "mop it up."
This meant the killing or disarming of all enemy found in hiding, the
picketing of the entrances and exits of all dug-outs, and laying siege
to them until their occupants surrendered, a course to which they were
encouraged by a liberal use of phosphorus bombs or Mills's grenades.

This process of "mopping up" became an integral part of our attack
procedure. Australian infantry soon learned its importance, and
practised the method with a thoroughness and efficiency to which I
remember no exception. Even a junior sergeant commanding a dozen men
could be relied on to take all measures necessary to ensure that no
enemy was ever left in hiding and unguarded behind his little party as
they advanced.

In the forthcoming attack upon the Hindenburg defences, the process of
"mopping up" became of supreme importance, because of the very fact,
of which we had become well aware, that the whole defensive system
had been provided, on quite an exceptional scale, with underground
shelters, galleries, passages and dug-outs. I made the most of this
knowledge in my talks to the Americans, emphasized the dangers as
strongly as I was able, insisted that the "mopping up" organization of
their infantry must be absolutely perfected, and ordered that of the
total Infantry participating in the assault, not less than one-half
should have the special role of safeguarding all underground exits and

The great fear was, of course, that these new troops, eager to show
their mettle, would be carried away in the excitement of the moment,
and would rush headlong forward, regardless of the dangers that
lurked behind them. It is, after all, no small demand to make upon
the discipline of an Infantry soldier, to expect him patiently and
obediently to stand guard over some dug-out entrance, allowing the
battle to sweep on, and his comrades to go forward to the excitement
and glory of achieving the final objectives.

So indeed it happened. The American Infantry had either not been
sufficiently tutored in this important matter, or the need of it had
not penetrated their understanding. In the attacks carried out by these
troops, while under my command, the "mopping up" was always badly done,
even in the few cases where it was attempted. The result was failure
to achieve a clean success, and a great addition to their own casualty
list. This criticism will be fully borne out by the narrative of the
great battle itself.

A second and much larger conference was held at my Headquarters on
September 26th, for the really complete and final co-ordination of the
whole of the procedure for the forthcoming battle. It was attended not
only by the American Divisional Generals and Brigadiers, but also by
the Commanders of the Second, Third and Fifth Australian Divisions,
their Staffs, the Tanks, Air Force and Cavalry.

It was much the largest and was also destined to be the last of any
assemblage of Commanders that it had been my privilege to call together
in the course of this memorable campaign.

No one present will soon forget the tense interest and confident
expectancy which characterized that meeting. America, a great
English-speaking democracy on one shore of the Pacific, was to
co-operate with Australia, its younger sister democracy on the opposite
shore, in what was the greatest and what might be the most decisive
battle of the great European War. Few present doubted that, if we were
successful, the war could not last much longer--because the loss of
the Hindenburg system would inevitably mean for the enemy his final
enforced withdrawal from France.

While the conference was in full swing, the Field Marshal himself paid
me a call. He had come to wish me success in the task before me. He was
interested to find so many Divisional Commanders assembled, and was
persuaded to address a few words to the gathering.

The conduct of the proceedings of this conference was a heavy strain.
The main battle was to take place on September 29th, or within
seventy-two hours, and part of my front line still stood a thousand
yards west of the Hindenburg outpost lines. General Rawlinson had
decided that this defect was to be made good prior to the main
operation, and the attempt to do so had been timed to take place on
September 27th, the day after the conference.

I had, therefore, to complete my organization upon the basis of a set
of precedent conditions which had not yet been entirely realized.
It was a new and a difficult situation. The whole of the powerful
Artillery at my disposal for the battle, amounting now to over a
thousand guns, was naturally clamouring for final decisions, so that
final barrage maps could be submitted for my approval, printed by my
very diligent and competent body of lithographic draughtsmen, and
circulated to all the batteries and Infantry.

To await the result of the operation of the next day would have allowed
insufficient time to complete the necessary maps and to distribute them
before nightfall on September 28th. There was no option but to assume
that General O'Ryan (27th American Division) would succeed in capturing
the northern section of the outpost line still in enemy hands, and upon
that assumption to fix the Artillery "start line" as falling to the
east of that objective. For the first time I had to gamble on a chance.
It was contrary to the policy which had governed all my previous battle
plans, in which _nothing_ had been left to chance.

At 5.30 a.m. next morning the 27th American Division carried out the
attack, under a barrage, and assisted by Tanks. The principal objective
points in the trench system under attack were Quennemont Farm and
Gillemont Farm. Every trace of these once prosperous homesteads and
plantations had, of course, long since disappeared. The names alone
remained as memories of the fighting there of 1917.

What happened on that day will never be accurately known. For once,
the information from the air did not harmonize with the claims made
on behalf of the assaulting troops, perhaps because the troops, being
untrained in the use of flares, or having been left unsupplied with
them, failed to assist the aeroplanes in identifying their correct
positions. However that may be, it became sufficiently clear, as the
day proceeded, that no proper success for the operation could be

There remained no doubt that some enemy were still left in occupation
of trenches on our side of the objective for that day, and such
American troops as may have gained their objective could not therefore
be reached. It appeared afterwards that small parties of Americans
had reached the vicinity of their objectives and had very gallantly
maintained themselves there, although surrounded on all sides, until
relieved by the Australians on September 29th.

The non-success of this operation of September 27th appeared
undoubtedly to be due to a failure to carry out "mopping up" duties
satisfactorily. It considerably embarrassed the preparations for the
main attack on the 29th. The knowledge that a number of American
wounded were still lying out in front, and the suspicion that some of
the American troops had succeeded in reaching Gillemont Farm, precluded
any alteration of the Artillery plans for September 29th, even if there
had still been time to do so without creating untold confusion. To have
brought the Artillery start line, proposed for September 29th, back to
the start line of September 27th would have brought our own barrage
down upon these forward troops of ours.

I hastened to the Army Commander to put the position before him,
stating that I felt grave concern for the success of the main
operation, in view of the fact that my Artillery barrage would have to
come down fully a thousand yards in front of what was still the front
of the 27th Division. I suggested a postponement for a day to give this
Division, which had ample resources in troops, another opportunity
of retrieving the position. He explained, however, that it was now
too late to alter the programme, because three whole Armies were
committed to the date first appointed. He said that he was, under the
circumstances, quite prepared for a partial failure at this point, and
requested me to do my best to pursue the original plan, in spite of
this difficult situation.

He agreed, however, to my further request, that additional Tanks, out
of Army reserves, should be placed at my disposal, so that I might
allot them to the 27th Division, to assist them in passing over the
thousand yards which would bring them up level with the Artillery
barrage. I hoped that this would enable the Division to catch up with
the southern half of the battle line.

It was an unsatisfactory expedient, and gave no promise of certain
success. It proved futile, and gravely affected the actual course,
although not the ultimate success, of the battle still to come. It
was the only occasion in the campaign on which I was compelled to
accept preliminary arrangements which were not such as would absolutely
guarantee success.

The genesis of the difficulty thus created had, however, been the
failure of the Third Corps to complete their programme of September
18th. It had been confirmed by the subsequent failure of the 27th
American Division to make up the deficiency on September 27th. I still
think, as I then urged, that I should have been allowed to accept the
situation as I found it on taking over this front on September 25th,
and that the 27th Division should not have been called upon, at the
eleventh hour, to endeavour to establish that new situation which had
been originally assumed as the basis for the battle plan of September
29th. My original proposal of September 18th, in my letter of that
date, paragraph 3 (see above), had, of course, been made before I could
foresee that the Third Corps would fail to capture the start line
contemplated in my first plan.

Of course, all is well that ends well. But, for an anxious and
turbulent period of twenty-four hours on September 29th and 30th,
the issue of the battle hung in grave doubt. The operation, although
successful, did _not_ proceed "according to plan" in its entirety, and
it was due to the wonderful gallantry and skilful leading of the Third
Australian Division that a very ugly situation was retrieved, a result
to which the Fifth Australian Division also contributed in no small


[21] See paragraph 3 of same.



A full account of the battle plan for the forcing of the main
Hindenburg Line, on the front of the Australian Corps, would alone fill
a volume. Nothing but brief references to the main outlines of the plan
can be attempted here.

The forces now at my disposal, for immediate use, were greater than I
had ever before committed to a single operation. They comprised, in
all, five Divisions, of which two were American and three Australian,
besides the whole of the Corps troops. The total personnel employed
on that occasion, under my orders in one capacity or another, almost
reached 200,000 men.

Besides 58 Battalions of Infantry, there were over 20,000 technical
troops, including Engineers, Pioneers and Signallers, upwards of 1,000
guns of all calibres, more than 500 Machine Guns, over 200 Tanks, a
Brigade of Cavalry, a Battalion of Armoured Cars, and numerous Air
Squadrons. The subsidiary services made an imposing array, comprising
observation balloons, supply trains, ammunition columns, auxiliary
horse transport, ambulances, motor convoys and mechanical transport,
together with railway, veterinary, sanitary and labour units.

It was no small task correctly to apportion to each fighting unit and
to each service its appropriate place in the general scheme, so that
these great resources should be employed to the best advantage, without
overtaxing the capacity of any one of them. I had also to secure the
greatest measure of co-operation between them all, and the punctual
performance by each of the work prescribed.

In contrast with the great battle of August 8th, there was on this
occasion no possibility of securing any advantage from surprise.
The enemy command was bound to know quite as well as we did that we
intended to deliver an attack on a gigantic scale, and there is no
doubt that they put forth their utmost efforts, and marshalled their
fullest resources in men and guns, to meet it.

There was, therefore, no object to be served by any measures of
concealment, and our task could not be made any the harder through
heralding the approach of the actual attack by adequate Artillery

The programme, therefore, began on the night of September 26th. There
was an intense Artillery action, extending over some sixty hours, with
every gun that could be brought to bear. This does not, of course,
imply that every individual gun or battery remained in action during
the whole of this period; ammunition supplies were not inexhaustible,
and gun detachments required periods of rest. But the programme of
times and targets was so arranged, and the tasks were so distributed
over the available batteries, that throughout this period there was no
respite for the enemy in any part of the field.

For some days prior to the opening of this bombardment, railway trains
and motor lorries had been working at the highest possible pressure, to
enable gunners to accumulate at their gun pits and in all their dumps
a sufficient supply of Artillery ammunition for this purpose. In the
short period which had elapsed since the forcing of the Somme, in the
early days of September, the railway diversion from Bray to Péronne had
been completed. The railway from Péronne to Roisel, although seriously
damaged by the enemy in many places, had been restored, and Roisel had
become the railhead for the delivery of ammunition. It was a noteworthy
performance, for all the Corps services concerned, to carry out the
whole supply of this battle in so smooth and expeditious a manner.

The first phase of this bombardment was of a novel character. For over
two years the enemy had been using a shell containing an irritant
and poisonous gas known to us as "mustard" gas. It was so called
only because of the smell. For a long time we had been promised that
the British Artillery service would shortly be supplied with a gas
shell, of similar character, but even more potent. It was, moreover,
anticipated that the German gas mask would prove no adequate protection
against this kind of gas.

At last the new shell was forthcoming, and the first shipment from
England, amounting to some fifty thousand rounds, was placed at the
disposal of the Australian Corps. My Artillery action, therefore,
opened with a concentrated gas bombardment for twelve hours, attacking
probable living quarters, occupied defences, and all known or suspected
approaches to them. Apart from being the first occasion, I believe that
it was also the only occasion during the war when our "mustard" gas
shell was used. No suitable opportunity for further use occurred before
the close of hostilities.

The gas bombardment was followed by forty-eight hours' destructive
bombardment with high explosive shell. This was directed partly against
the enemy's Artillery, as far as the short time available had permitted
us to locate his batteries.

Another part of the bombardment was devoted to the approaches from
the enemy's rear to his forward defences. The object was to render
his roads and tracks unusable, and thereby to prevent the delivery
of rations, or, at any rate, of hot food to his garrisons, or of
ammunition to his guns. By these means we expected, by partially
starving him out, to impair the enemy's _moral_.

The main weight of the bombardment was, however, devoted to the
destruction of the enemy's defences, of which his barbed wire
entanglements were for us the most formidable feature. Much of this
wire was disposed in concealed positions, either in depressions of the
ground, or in sunken moats, artificially prepared. It was, therefore,
difficult to locate, and still more difficult for my gunners to direct
their fire upon it. Nevertheless, there was a considerable quantity of
wire which was plainly visible, and every band of entanglements through
which breaches could be blown was so much to the good, in clearing the
path for the Infantry assault.

[Illustration: Australian Light Horse--the 13th A.L.H. Regiment riding
into action on August 17th, 1918.]

[Illustration: The Sniper sniped--an enemy sniper disposed of by an
Australian Sharp-shooter, August 22nd, 1918.]

In earlier years it had been the custom to attack barbed wire with our
lighter guns, using shrapnel shell. This shell is, however, essentially
a "man-killing" projectile, and has no great destructive power against
field works. On the other hand, our heavier guns were scarcely more
useful for wire cutting, because the great craters which were made by
the explosion of their shells destroyed the wire only very locally,
and, by upheaving the ground, increased rather than reduced the
difficulties of the Infantry.

This was due to the employment of fuses, which permitted the
projectile, after striking, to bury itself in the ground for a small
fraction of time before igniting the explosive charge which it
contained. Hence the great shell craters. It was a very proper fuse to
use for destroying trenches, dug-outs, gun-pits and emplacements, but
of little use for cutting wire.

In due course the British service evolved an "instantaneous" fuse,
which became known to the gunners as the "106 Fuse." This had the merit
of being perfectly safe to handle, up to the moment of firing the gun,
but by means of a most ingenious mechanism it became highly sensitive
while the projectile was in flight between the gun and the target. The
result was that the very slightest obstacle met with, even a strand of
wire, was sufficient to set off the fuse and explode the shell. Even
if the shell met no obstacle before striking the earth, the explosion
would take place above instead of below the surface of the ground, and
would exert so great a horizontal force in all directions that great
bands of wire entanglements would be bodily uprooted, over considerable
areas, and literally blown to one side in a jumbled mass.

Our heavy guns, therefore, using 106 Fuses, became ideal wire cutters,
and it was in this way that much of the Artillery action during the
forty-eight hours prior to the battle was applied.

The Infantry and Field Artillery plan, which I prepared, was very
similar in its general character to the battle plan of August 8th.
It differed only in subordinate details due to local topographical
variations from the former conditions.

Of the five Divisions available, one--the Second Australian--was to
remain in Corps reserve, but handy. For that purpose it was brought up
from its rest near Cappy, by motor bus, to the vicinity of Péronne,
the move being completed by nightfall on September 27th.

The battle Divisions and their prior dispositions were as follows:

_Line Divisions:_

  On the right, the 30th American Division, to attack with the
  60th Brigade, and to employ the 59th Brigade to form a southern
  defensive flank in the event of the failure of the Ninth Corps to
  cross the Canal.

  On the left, the 27th American Division, to attack with the
  54th Brigade, and to employ the 53rd Brigade to form a northern
  defensive flank, until such time as the Thirteenth Corps was ready
  to pass through in a north-easterly direction.

_"Exploitation" Divisions:_

  On the right, the 5th Australian Division, with the 8th and 15th
  Brigades in the first line and the 14th Brigade following in

  On the left, the Third Australian Division, with the 10th and 11th
  Brigades in the first line and the 9th Brigade following in support.

The total frontage was equally divided between the two pairs of
Divisions, being about 3,500 yards to each. The battle was to be
divided into two phases, the first to be executed by the Americans,
under a timed barrage, the second, under open warfare conditions, by
the Australians. It was intended that the Americans should penetrate to
the "green line," an average distance of 3,500 yards, which took in the
villages of Bellicourt, Nauroy, Bony and Gouy.

The Australians were to exploit eastward, but were limited to a further
advance of 4,000 yards, overrunning Joncourt, Estrées and Beaurevoir.
Should they reach that objective on the first day, they would have
passed the last-known wired line, and the country beyond would be
suitable for Cavalry. Accordingly, I allotted to the 5th Cavalry
Brigade, which had been placed under my orders, the rôle of passing
through the Australian Divisions, and carrying the exploitation still
further east, in the direction of Montbrehain and Brancourt.

As it turned out, the whole of the objectives named were in our
possession only on the forenoon of October 5th, instead of, as planned,
by September 30th. The actual battle developed on totally different
lines from those which I had planned, for reasons which I shall
relate in due course. Little object would therefore be served in an
explanation of the considerable mass of detailed arrangements which the
original plan involved; these would also, by reason of their technical
character, be more suitable for a text-book on tactics.

Suffice it to say that elaborate arrangements were made--and also
partly utilized--for the rapid construction of four main roads from
west to east, through the full width of the Hindenburg system. This
work was to follow on the heels of the advance. The rôles assigned
to the Tanks, the Barrage Artillery, the Mobile Artillery, the Heavy
Artillery and the Armoured Cars were similar in character, although
differing in detail from those carried out by them on August 8th.

On no previous occasion had the labour of preparation and the stress
upon all Commanders and Staffs been so heavy, but all responded nobly.
There were none who did not count the hours till zero hour, which was
fixed for 5.50 a.m. on September 29th.

In appraising the long sustained fighting on the front of the Fourth
Army which began on that day, and lasted a full week, regard must be
had to contemporary events. The American First Army attack on St.
Mihiel on September 11th had wrought fresh dislocation to the enemy's
resources, and had created another sore spot on his long front. On
September 26th the Americans and French again successfully attacked
between Verdun and Rheims. On September 27th, the First and Third
British Armies opened a great attack on a front of thirteen miles
before Cambrai and the magnificent Canadian Corps captured Bourlon Wood
and advanced to within a mile of Cambrai city. On September 28th, the
Second British Army and the Belgians attacked between Ypres and the
sea. All British Armies, except the Fifth, had, therefore, by that time
developed active battle fronts. On September 29th the first French Army
would co-operate with us, and on that day the battle front was to cover
a total length of twenty-five miles.

The simultaneous engagement of so large a portion of the enemy's
line in Belgium and France during the preceding three days had
piled difficulty upon difficulty for him, and it was therefore not
unreasonable to entertain two expectations--firstly, that our task
would be rendered easier by the wide dispersion of the enemy's
defensive energies, and, secondly, that he could hardly hope to survive
a definite breach in his great defensive line at so critical a place as
the Bellicourt tunnel. If that went he would be secure nowhere, and his
next possibility of making a stand would be on the line of the Meuse,
even if not the line of the Rhine.

The day broke with a familiar mist, and the attack was launched
punctually at the appointed time. Quite early in the day news came
in that the Ninth Corps on my right hand had achieved an astonishing
success, that Bellenglise had been captured, and that the deep canal
had been successfully crossed in several places. It was the 46th
Imperial Division to which this great success was chiefly due, a
success achieved by most careful preparation and gallant execution.
Lifebelts, rafts, boats, mats, portable bridges, and every device
which ingenuity could suggest had been prepared beforehand for the
actual crossing of the water in the canal. There can be no doubt
that this success, conceived at first as a demonstration to distract
attention from the Australian Corps front, materially assisted me in
the situation in which I was placed later on the same day.

The first reports from my own front were in every way satisfactory,
and it looked as if everything were going strictly to schedule. That
morning the stream of messages pouring into my Headquarters office,
from special observers, from the air, from the line divisions, from
the Artillery, and from my liaison officers with neighbouring Corps,
exceeded in volume and import anything I had met with in my previous
war experience. I have the typewritten précis of the "inwards" signal
traffic before me as I write. Those received and laid before me on that
day cover thirty closely typewritten foolscap pages.

The burden of the earlier messages all pointed to the same conclusion:
"30th Division crossed the Canal on time;" "1,000 prisoners, all going
well;" "Bony captured;" "Tanks fighting round Bellicourt at 9 a.m.;"
"Bellicourt taken."

Those, omitting formal parts, were the burden of all the telegrams up
to 10 a.m. They continued in such a favourable strain during the whole
of the time that the two American Divisions had command of the battle

The time for their arrival at the first objective--_i.e._, the "green"
line--had been computed to be at 9 a.m. The Australian Divisions were
to cross the green line at 11 a.m., and at the same hour to take over
the command on the front of the battle. Two telegrams then came in
which caused me serious anxiety. It may be of interest to set them out
in detail:

Received at 11.10 a.m. from 30th American Division:

  "Fighting in Bellicourt, owing to Germans having come down along
  the Canal from the north. Fifth Australian Division hung up."

Received at 11.12 a.m. from Third Australian Division:

  "We are dug in on west side of tunnel. Americans are held up in
  front of us."

These were only the first symptoms of a miscarriage of the plans.
Evidences rapidly multiplied that all was not going well. But,
concurrently, there came a stream of messages from the air that our
troops and some of our Tanks were east of both Bellicourt and Le

The situation was therefore confused and uncertain, and it had to be
diagnosed without delay. I hastened forward with all possible speed
to get into personal touch with the situation and the Divisional
Commanders. I soon formed the conclusion that probably both American
Divisions had successfully followed our barrage, and that numbers of
their troops had really reached the green line, but that, once again,
the "mopping up" procedure had been neglected. The enemy had reappeared
in strength from underground _behind_ the Americans, and was holding up
the advance of the two Australian Divisions to the second phase of the

Subsequent developments and further inquiries entirely bore out these
conclusions. On the front of the 27th American Division there had been
difficulty from the start. A number of Tanks allotted to that Division
had been put out of action, some by direct hits from Artillery, others
by land mines. It was currently believed that these were not enemy
mines, but some which had been laid months before by our own Fifth Army
as a measure of protection against the possible use of Tanks by the

This had given the 27th Division a bad start. Only two out of its
six assaulting Battalions had managed to catch up with and follow
the barrage. The remainder could not get forward as far even as the
Artillery start line. Those Americans who did follow the barrage
apparently forgot all about "mopping up." They reached Le Catelet and
Gouy and entered those villages, only to find themselves surrounded on
all sides by the enemy. A German officer prisoner informed us next day
that 1,200 of these Americans had been taken prisoner.

The 30th American Division did not fare so badly. They got a good start
with the barrage, but the broken condition of the ground, the intricate
trench system and the confusion of wire and dug-outs brought about a
loss of cohesion and of control. By the time Bellicourt was reached,
the attacking troops had fallen some distance behind the barrage, and
most of the weight had gone out of the attack.

Meanwhile, in this part of the field also, the enemy had reappeared
from underground, and was still in strength on the west side of
Bellicourt, now in the hands of the Americans, when the advanced guard
of the Fifth Australian Division came upon them.

It was an unexpected situation for the Fifth Division. But without a
moment's hesitation the leading troops took its measure. They deployed
from the Artillery formation[22] in which they had been previously
advancing into lines of skirmishers. After hard fighting in the face
of most vigorous resistance, they cleared away all opposition which
lay between them and Bellicourt, and, sweeping forward through that
village, carefully "mopping up" as they went, carried with them
considerable numbers of the Americans whom they found there.

While this was happening, the Third Australian Division, deprived of
the assistance either of Artillery or of Tanks, and in broad daylight,
found themselves confronted with the difficult problem of carrying out
the whole of the task which had been set for the 27th Division, because
the reappearance of the enemy upon the ground successfully passed over
by some of the Americans earlier in the day nullified all the value of
that success.

It was about 2 p.m. before I had succeeded in gathering sufficient
reliable information about the situation to enable me to arrive at
a decision how to deal with it. By that hour the Fifth Division had
advanced through Nauroy, and had passed across the Le Catelet line
in that vicinity. The Third Division had managed to get obliquely
astride of the line of the tunnel, its right being well across the
main Hindenburg wire, while its left was still in the vicinity of the
American start line of that morning. They had, however, succeeded in
finally capturing Quennemont Farm. The whole of their advance into such
a position had been hotly contested.

My troops were therefore, to all intents and purposes, astride of the
Hindenburg main line, one Division wholly on the east and the other
Division mainly on the west of it. The southern end of the tunnel was
in my possession, the northern end was not.

My decision was forthwith to abandon the original plan which had taken
so many days and so much labour to prepare, to take immediate measures
for securing our gains for the day, and to organize a continuation of
the battle next day on totally different lines. These were to conquer
the remainder of the main Hindenburg trench system, in which the ruin
of the village of Bony was the key position, by attacking it from the
south towards the north, instead of from the west towards the east.

The first step in this plan was to ensure effective tactical contact
between the right flank of the Third Division and the left flank of
the Fifth Division. I framed an order that both Divisions should take
immediate steps to such an end. Telephone communication with both
Gellibrand and Hobbs being momentarily interrupted, I was about to
forward written orders by dispatch rider to each of them to the effect

Before the messenger had time to leave, however, messages came in from
both Divisional Commanders, each reporting that he had just secured
tactical touch with the other in exactly the way which I wanted. I
consider this a remarkable example of unity of thought. Each, without
being able to consult the other or myself, had taken the very course
which each correctly anticipated that I should decide to have taken.
The German General Staff used to boast in their writings that no other
Army approached theirs in this capacity for initiative by subordinates
on lines in thorough unison with each other and with the policies of
the higher command.

That the situation on my front, now held exclusively by Australians,
would have been secure that night against a determined counter-attack
I did not doubt, even though the fourteen Australian Battalions now
holding a line of some 9,000 yards would scarcely average 400 rifles
apiece. However, nothing more than small local counter-attacks was
attempted, and the hold which I had gained upon the main defences was
not slackened. I feel sure, nevertheless, that the success of the
Ninth Corps on my right in swarming across the canal from Bellenglise
to Bellicourt had much to do with my immunity from interference; the
enemy probably found himself with quite enough to do there in trying
to re-establish his line further in rear, and this forbade him to
materialize sufficient troops for any general counter-attack.

While I have felt obliged to state the facts in regard to the partial
failure of the two American Divisions to carry out their part of my
battle plan, I desire, nevertheless, to do full justice to these
troops. I have no hesitation in saying that they fought most bravely,
and advanced to the assault most fearlessly; that the leaders, from the
Divisional Generals downwards, did the utmost within their powers to
ensure success. Nor must the very bad conditions under which the 27th
Division had to start be forgotten. Our American Allies are, all things
considered, entitled to high credit for a fine effort.

But it is, nevertheless, true that in this battle they demonstrated
their inexperience in war, and their ignorance of some of the
elementary methods of fighting employed on the French front. For these
shortcomings they paid a heavy price. Their sacrifices, nevertheless,
contributed quite definitely to the partial success of the day's
operations, and although the comprehensive plan, which was to have
carried my front beyond Beaurevoir on the very first day, had to be
abandoned, the day's fighting ended with the two Australian Divisions
in quite a satisfactory position for a continuance of the operations on
the next day.

To this there was, however, one important qualification. Air observers
continued to report the presence of American troops between the
Hindenburg Line and Le Catelet, and also in the latter village. Late
that night an Australian Artillery liaison officer managed to make his
way back into our lines with the story that he had actually advanced
with a battalion of Americans into Le Catelet, and that they were still
there, although practically surrounded.

The 27th Division made many attempts to get into communication with
them, but without avail. Beyond the report previously alluded to that
they had subsequently been made prisoner, I have no information of
their ultimate fate; but when patrols of the Third Division entered the
village forty-eight hours later, there was no longer any sign of them.
A number of small parties of Americans were, however, encountered and
relieved as the further advance of the Third Division progressed during
the next two days.

The situation was profoundly embarrassing. With the mass of Artillery
at my disposal, it would have been a simple matter to cover the further
advance of the Third Division so amply as to make it easy to master the
northern half of the tunnel defences, especially if attacked end on.
But so long as American troops or wounded were presumed to be lying out
in front, I dared not use Artillery at all, except on a very restricted
scale. I felt justified, however, in bombarding isolated localities
which patrols had definitely ascertained to be still in enemy hands;
but nothing in the shape of adequate artillery support to the Infantry
could be attempted.

During the night of September 29th orders were issued to the Second
American Corps to withdraw all advanced troops that could be reached,
and to concentrate their regiments for rest and reorganization, so as
to be ready as soon as possible for re-employment. Very considerable
numbers of American soldiers had become mixed up with the Australian
Battalions, and, in their eagerness, had gone forward with them,
regardless of the particular rôles or objectives which had been
originally assigned to them. It was found to be a matter of some
difficulty to induce these men to withdraw from the fighting and to
rejoin their own units, so keen were they to continue their advance.

I also ordered the Second Australian Division to be brought up by bus
from the Péronne area, and to take up a position of readiness just west
of the Hindenburg Line. I foresaw that with the nature of the fighting
before the Third and Fifth Divisions, it would not be very long before
they would have to be relieved, and there was still the Beaurevoir
line of trenches to be overcome before the Hindenburg system could be
claimed as taken in its entirety. This move was duly carried out, and
the Second Division became available by the evening of October 1st in
close support of the battle front.

The orders to the two line Divisions for September 30th were to attack
generally in a north-easterly direction. The immediate objectives
of the Third Division were Bony village, the "Knob" and the northern
entrance to the tunnel. The flanks of the two Divisions were to meet
on the Railway Spur, and the right of the Fifth Division was to swing
forward in the direction of Joncourt, in sympathy with any advance made
by the Ninth Corps to the south of them.

There was, as explained, no possibility of attempting anything like
a methodical advance covered by a co-ordinated Artillery barrage.
Progress would depend upon the tenacity and skilful leading of the
front-line troops, and reliance must be had more upon the bayonet and
the bomb than upon external aids. It was, in a peculiar degree, a
private soldier's battle.

The night of September 29th brought steady rain, and everybody was
drenched to the skin. September 30th was a day of intense effort, slow
and methodical hand-to-hand fighting, in a perfect tangle of trenches,
with every yard of the advance vigorously contested; but by nightfall
the line of the Third Division had advanced fully 1,000 yards. Its
left had pivoted on the "Knoll," to the west of the Hindenburg Line.
Gillemont Farm was by then securely in their hands; they had reached
the southern outskirts of Bony village. Their right was well across the
line of the canal, and joined the left flank of the Fifth Division on
the Railway Spur. The Fifth Division had cleared the Le Catelet trench
line of the enemy, and its right was by now well to the east of Nauroy.

Another day's fighting was still before both Divisions, but the effect
of the successful efforts of September 30th was speedily felt on
October 1st. Overnight the enemy must have made up his mind that it
was hopeless to try to retain any further hold upon the tunnel line,
and his further resistance melted rapidly away. On October 1st events
moved quickly; by 10 a.m. the Fifth Division reported the capture of
Joncourt. By midday the whole of the village of Bony was in our hands,
and at the same hour the air observers reported our patrols rapidly
approaching the "Knob" and Le Catelet village.

By nightfall of October 1st the whole operation had been successfully
completed. The northern entrance to the tunnel, the "Knob" and the
whole of the Railway Spur were in our hands; our line ran just west of
Le Catelet and east of Estrées and Joncourt; all isolated parties of
Americans and all American wounded had been gathered in, and the whole
situation had been satisfactorily cleared up from an Artillery point of

Later the same night our patrols entered Le Catelet, which lay in a
hollow below us, and found the village deserted except for a number of
enemy wounded. The enemy, during that day, relinquished his last hold
upon the famous tunnel defences, and withdrew precipitately eastwards
to the Beaurevoir hill and northwards towards Aubencheul. Our total
captures during the three days' operations amounted to 3,057 prisoners
and 35 guns.

It had been a stiff fight, and the endurance of the Infantry had
been highly tested. The skill displayed by the Third Division in the
course of the close trench fighting of September 30th was particularly
noteworthy. The stress upon Major-General Gellibrand and his Staff
and Infantry Brigadiers had been severe. The several Brigades and
Battalions had unavoidably become seriously mixed up. Control became
very difficult, but was never completely lost.

This was illustrated by the following incident of the day's fighting. I
had ascertained that the whole of the Infantry of the Division had been
committed, and there were no reserves in the hands of the Divisional
Commander. One Battalion of the 9th Brigade was fighting under the
orders of the 11th Brigade, another under that of the 10th Brigade.
I took exception to this, and directed that a Divisional reserve
should be immediately reconstituted. In spite of the difficulties of
communication, Gellibrand contrived to carry this intricate order into
effect during the very climax of the fight.

Gellibrand was a man of interesting personality, more a philosopher
and student than a man of action. His great personal bravery and his
high sense of duty compensated in a great measure for some tendency to
uncertainty in executive action. He had been a professional soldier,
but before the war had retired into civil life. When the call came,
he received a junior Staff appointment with the First Division, but
his outstanding merits soon gained him promotion. As a Brigadier, he
had, during 1916 and 1917, successfully led several of the Australian
Brigades. His command of the Third Division during the last five months
of active fighting was characterized by complete success in battle. His
temperament and methods sometimes involved him in embarrassments on the
administrative side of his work; but he succeeded in retaining to the
last the whole-hearted confidence of his troops.

I feel certain from my close observation of the course of events on
September 30th and October 1st, that much of the success of the battle
was due to Gellibrand's personal tenacity, and the assiduous manner
in which he kept himself in personal touch from hour to hour with the
forward situation and progress of his troops.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the fighting I issued the following

  "Please convey to all Commanders, Staffs and troops of the Third
  and Fifth Australian Divisions my sincere appreciation of and
  thanks for their fine work of the past three days. Confronted at
  the outset of the operations with a critical situation of great
  difficulty, and hampered by inability to make full use of our
  Artillery resources, these Divisions succeeded in completely
  overwhelming a stubborn defence in the most strongly fortified
  sector of the Western Front. This was due to the determination
  and resource of the leaders and the grit, endurance and fighting
  spirit of the troops. Nothing more praiseworthy has been done by
  Australian troops in this war."

The operations entrusted to the Corps had, by the night of October 1st,
been substantially completed. Although the Beaurevoir defence line
still lay to the east of us, the main canal defences, as far as the
Le Catelet line, had been pierced, and a way had been opened for the
Thirteenth Corps to pass across the line of the tunnel to be launched
upon its task of turning the enemy out of the northern continuation of
the Hindenburg Line by envelopment from the south.

It was impossible to call upon the Third and Fifth Divisions for any
further effort. Their work had been most exhausting. Furthermore,
the steady drain upon their resources, after sixty days of almost
continuous battle activity, had so reduced their fighting strength,
that a very drastic reorganization had become necessary. This could
only be effected by a complete withdrawal from the fighting zone.

Accordingly, arrangements were put in hand for the immediate relief of
these two Divisions. The Fifth Australian was relieved by the Second
Australian Division, and the Third Australian Division by a Division
of the Thirteenth Corps. Both the relieved Divisions, in the course of
the next few days, followed the First and Fourth Australian Divisions
into the grateful rest area which had been provided to the west and
south-west of Amiens, and before they were again called upon for
further front-line service hostilities had ended.


[22] "Artillery Formation" is an advance in numerous small infantry
columns irregularly spaced both in frontage and depth. "Line of
Skirmishers" is an advance in successive lines of men, the intervals
between the men being from two to five paces, and between the lines
from 50 to 100 paces.



The successive withdrawals of the First, Fourth, Third and Fifth
Australian Divisions from the battle zone during the period from
September 22nd to October 2nd had been arranged with the Fourth
Army Commander about the middle of September. The Corps had been
continuously employed on front-line duty since April, and had already
accomplished a considerable advance, for every inch of which it had
been obliged to fight.

This consideration alone had earned for the Corps a period of rest. But
other important questions arose which affected the situation.

I have mentioned that early in 1918 all Brigades of the Imperial
Service had, owing to failing man-power, been reduced from four to
three Battalions each. In this reduction the Australian Brigades
participated only to a small extent during the fighting period.
Every one of the Australian battalions had created great traditions;
regimental _esprit_ and pride of unit were very strong. The private
soldier valued his Battalion colour patch almost more than any other

My predecessor in the Corps Command had, during May, 1918, directed the
disbandment of one Battalion each of the 9th, 12th and 13th Brigades.
This was due to the wastage resulting from the heavy fighting by
these Brigades on the Villers-Bretonneux front. The residues of the
disbanded battalions were used as drafts to replenish the remaining
three Battalions of each Brigade. It was doubtless a measure directed
by necessity, as the flow of reinforcements was steadily diminishing.

Much lamentation was, however, caused among the officers and men who
thus lost their battalion identity, both among those remaining in the
field and those convalescing from wounds and sickness, who were thereby
deprived of the hope of rejoining their former units.

Through all these events I became fully alive to the difficulties which
would present themselves when the evil day should arrive on which the
fate of still other battalions would have to be decided. It was a day
whose advent I was anxious to stave off until the last possible moment.

Throughout the summer and autumn it became incumbent upon me to keep
a close watch upon the fighting strengths of all the 57 Australian
Infantry Battalions in the field. I had to consider the numbers
actually present with the unit, the numbers likely to join from time
to time from convalescent camps and hospitals, and the flow of new
recruits from the Australian Depots in England. Almost daily forecasts
had to be made as to the probable strengths available on a given date
in all the Battalions likely to be employed in a given operation.

The full official strength of a Battalion of Infantry was 1,000 at the
outbreak of the war, but a reduction to 900 had been authorized in
July, 1918. No battalion in the Army was ever for long able to maintain
itself at a strength of 900. Indeed, experience went to show that so
long as the strength did not fall below 600, a unit could quite well
carry out, in battle, a normal battalion task, provided that frequent
periods of short rest could be assured.

Towards the middle of September, 1918, the successful course of the
fighting, and the moderate rate of net wastage--by which I mean
the excess of battle losses over replenishments from the rear--had
convinced me that there was every reason to hope that the strengths of
the 57 battalions could be maintained at a useful standard until the
end of the campaigning season of that year. If the war were to go on
into 1919, and provided that the Australian Corps could be kept out
of the line over the three winter months, thereby avoiding the daily
wastage of trench duty, I felt able to guarantee that by the spring of
1919 the whole of these battalions would again have become replenished
to a sufficient extent for a spring campaign.

[Illustration: MAP H]

It may have been an optimistic view; it may have savoured of a desire
to postpone the evil day. But I felt assured that the disbandment of
a number of additional battalions would seriously impair the fighting
spirit of the whole Australian Corps. I was prepared to take the chance
of being able to carry on until the end of 1918 with the whole 57
battalions retained intact.

But I was not permitted to do so. At various times during the period
June to August, 1918, an unimaginative department at G.H.Q. kept
harassing me with inquiries as to when it was proposed to conform to
the new Imperial organization in which all Brigades were to be reduced
to three Battalions each. These inquiries were at first ignored, but
early in September the Adjutant-General became insistent for a reply.

I set out the whole position as I saw it, and strongly urged a
postponement of the question until the Corps should have completed the
vitally important series of fighting operations on which it was then
engaged. Looking back upon the course of events of that time, it is
hardly credible now that, having regard to the reasons given, these
representations should have been ignored. I procrastinated. Suddenly
I received instructions from the War Office that some 6,000 men of
the Corps, who had served continuously since 1914, were to be given
six months' furlough to Australia, and that they were to be held in
readiness to entrain en route for Australia at forty-eight hours'

These orders were received only two days before the battle of
Hargicourt. The First and Fourth Divisions, destined to fight in that
battle, were those most affected by such a withdrawal of men, because
these Divisions contained the battalions and batteries which had been
longest in the field. I could not, obviously, take up any attitude
which would postpone the well-earned furlough of these veterans; nor
had I the smallest inclination to do so. My case against the main
proposal for an immediate extinction of additional battalions, was,
however, weakened thereby.

The responsible authorities overruled my objections, and on September
19th I received peremptory instructions to disband eight additional
battalions forthwith. With many misgivings, I had no option but to
comply. I called my Divisional Commanders together, and with them
decided which battalions should suffer extinction.

It was a difficult choice, and created a situation of great difficulty.
The whole of the personnel affected raised a very subordinate but
none the less determined protest. One battalion after another very
respectfully but very firmly took the stand that they did not wish to
disband, and would prefer not to fight as dismembered and scattered
portions of other battalions.

This attitude, perhaps, bordered upon insubordination, but it was
conceived for a very worthy purpose. It was a pathetic effort, and
elicited much sympathy from the senior Commanders and myself.

On the eve of the great operations for the overthrow of the Hindenburg
Line I found myself, therefore, in a sea of troubles, and threatened
with the possibility of internal disaffection. To outsiders who could
have no understanding of the situation this might imperil the fair fame
and prestige of the Australian Army Corps.

Up to this stage the Fourth Army Commander had been in no way concerned
in the matter. The pressure upon me had come from the War Office and
the Adjutant-General's Department. Lord Rawlinson's interests, however,
now became vitally involved. I submitted the whole position to him. I
pointed out how inopportune the time was for risking trouble of this
nature. The order for disbandment, having been given, must of course
stand, and obedience must be insisted upon; but a postponement of
further action for fourteen days was desirable, if the opportunity
of a decisive blow against the enemy was not to be imperilled by an
impairment of the fighting spirit and goodwill of the Australian Corps.

Rawlinson accepted my views in their entirety, and used his authority
and influence with the Commander-in-Chief. A postponement of action
was authorized, and all the Battalions which had been threatened with
extinction, with one exception, were permitted to remain intact during
the remainder of the fighting period. The exception was made in the
case of the 59th and 60th Battalions (of the 15th Brigade), whose men
most loyally made no demur at the immediate amalgamation of the two
battalions for the purposes of the forthcoming operations.

[Illustration: German Prisoners--captured at the battle of Chuignes,
August 23rd, 1918.]

[Illustration: Captured German Guns--Park of Ordnance captured by the
Australians during August, 1918.]

By the end of September, therefore, three separate factors were
operating to make a short withdrawal of the Corps from the battle zone

These were, the long unbroken period of line service, the orders for
the reorganization of the Brigades on a three-Battalion basis, and the
granting of Australian furlough to the veterans.

These were the reasons which brought about the decision that the whole
of the Australian Corps should be sent for a period of rest in a
coastal area as soon as the battle operations on which it had embarked
had been brought to a successful conclusion.

Those operations were, on October 1st, almost completed. Only the
Beaurevoir line still remained to be mastered, and the Second
Australian Division, which had been resting since its successes at
Mont St. Quentin, was available to undertake that task. For the next
three days the Australian Corps became, therefore, reduced to only one
Division (the Second Australian) in the line, with the 27th and 30th
American Divisions in support.

The Second Division occupied the night of October 1st and the greater
part of October 2nd in the process of taking over line duty from the
Fifth Division, and in preparing for an attack timed for the next
morning upon the Beaurevoir defences. I handed over the northern part
of what had been the Australian Corps front, on the day previous, to
the 50th Division (of the Thirteenth Corps), which had by now effected
the passage of the tunnel line, and had deployed upon my left, facing
north and north-east.

After these adjustments were made, the Corps front, on the night
of October 2nd, extended from Mont St. Martin through the eastern
outskirts of Estrées and Joncourt, where I joined with the 32nd
Division (now belonging to the Ninth Corps). It was a frontage of
nearly 6,000 yards, an extraordinary length for the battle front of a
single Division. Our line lay parallel to and about 1,000 yards to the
west of the Beaurevoir line, and the attack for next day was designed
to be delivered in a north-easterly direction. If the Beaurevoir
line itself were captured, the attack was to be pushed on beyond, in
the endeavour to sweep the enemy off the prominent hill on which was
situated the village of Beaurevoir. Concurrently the Thirteenth Corps
would attack Prospect Hill, lying to the north-east of Gouy village.

The Beaurevoir line was a fully-developed defensive system, with front,
support and communication trenches, thoroughly traversed, well wired
in, and still in good condition. In 1917 it would have been considered
impossible to capture such a line of defence by such a force on such a

The Second Division deployed two of its Brigades, the 5th on the right
and the 7th on the left, with the 6th Brigade in reserve. The 5th
Tank Brigade, now greatly reduced in numbers, and some Whippet Tanks
co-operated in the attack. The assault was launched at 6.5 a.m. under
a Field Artillery barrage. Considerable opposition was met with. The
trenches were found strongly held, particularly with machine guns, and
the uncut wire seriously impeded the Infantry.

The frontal attack of the 5th Brigade, nevertheless, achieved almost
immediate success, although in some parts of the line there were
centres of resistance which had to be enveloped before they yielded.
The performance of the Tanks on this day was disappointing. Most of the
heavier Tanks were disabled by Artillery fire, while the Whippets found
the Beaurevoir trench lines too wide to straddle. Nevertheless, the
spirited action of the Artillery made up for the loss of the assistance
of the Tanks, and by 11 a.m. the whole of the Beaurevoir line in front
of the 5th Brigade had been captured.

Further to the north, the 7th Brigade found the trenches almost end on
to the direction of their advance, and the battle here speedily took
on the form of pure trench fighting with bomb and bayonet, a type of
fighting in which the Australian excels. Steady progress northwards was

The whole of the Beaurevoir line over the full extent of the Corps
front was taken before midday, and although already very tired, the
assaulting Brigades pushed on beyond, to the ascent of the Beaurevoir
spur. On a knoll at its south-western extremity stood the stone base of
the now wrecked Beaurevoir Mill, a prominent landmark visible for miles.

The spur and the vicinity of the Mill were found to be strongly held,
probably by fugitives driven out that morning from the Beaurevoir
trenches. The weight of our attack spent itself on the slopes of the
spur. The 6th Brigade was therefore launched at Beaurevoir Mill and
village. Although some portion of our attack passed the Mill and
reached the village, our available Infantry strength was not sufficient
to mop it up satisfactorily, and the Brigadier decided to establish for
the night a secure line about 1,000 yards south-west of the village.

The total captures by the Second Division on this day exceeded a
thousand prisoners and many machine guns--an astonishing performance
for three weak brigades, fighting under open and exposed conditions.

The attack on Beaurevoir hill had been undertaken chiefly to keep the
enemy engaged and on the move, while an additional Division of the
Thirteenth Corps could be brought across the line of the tunnel and
deployed into the battle line. The direction of the attack had been
to the north-east. It now became necessary to readjust the general
easterly line of advance by redistributing the Army front between the
three Corps now in line. The greater part of October 4th was occupied
in carrying out these arrangements, and the Second Division availed
itself of the period to improve its line and the positions of parts of
it by local attacks and the capture of tactical points along its front.
On this day the Division gathered in a further 800 prisoners and five

By nightfall on October 4th the Corps front, now reduced to 4,000
yards, ran generally north and south, well east of Wiancourt and
just east of Ramicourt. The task of the Second Division and of the
Australian Corps was completed, and in pursuance of arrangements
previously made, the initial steps were taken on that day to hand
over the Australian Corps front to the 27th and 30th American
Divisions, which had, in the days intervening since September 29th,
been reorganized and rested. They were to be given a place in the front
battle line under the direct orders of their own Corps Headquarters
(General Read).

To cover the interval of time necessary to enable the first of the
American Divisions (30th) to move up into line, General Rawlinson
desired me to retain control of the battle front for one day longer,
and avail myself of the time to make an endeavour to advance our line
still further to the east.

I selected as a suitable objective the village of Montbrehain, which
stood on a plateau that dominated any further advance.

The Second Division was instructed to carry out this attack early on
October 5th, and I allotted to them one company of Tanks, which was all
that could be materialized in fighting trim at such short notice.

Rosenthal launched his attack at five minutes past six in the morning
of October 5th. It was the 6th Brigade which led it. The village was
full of machine guns, but the gallant Brigade dashed in with the
bayonet, and methodically worked its way through the village to its
eastern outskirts. A counter-attack developed about noon, and for a
time about 400 yards of ground had to be yielded, but our foremost line
was speedily restored with the assistance of a battalion of the 5th

By nightfall our line ran completely around the eastern outskirts of
the village of Montbrehain, the whole of which was in our possession.
We took from it over 600 prisoners belonging to nine different German

What was even more interesting was that we came for the first time in
the war upon French civilians, who had been under the domination of
the enemy since the autumn of 1914. These unfortunate folk were found
hidden away in cellars and underground shelters, and their joy at their
deliverance from foreign bondage was pathetic. It was evident that the
enemy had not had time to carry out the evacuation of the civilians,
as had been his practice throughout the whole area over which the
Australian Corps had hitherto advanced.

By the night of October 5th the Corps had, by the victory of
Montbrehain, advanced its line to a point six miles to the east of the
Bellicourt Tunnel, and had thereby confirmed the irretrievable collapse
of the whole of the Hindenburg defences.

This achievement is, above everything else, an illustration, which
should become classic, of the maxim that in war the _moral_ is to the
material as three to one. The enemy had all the advantages of position,
of carefully prepared field works, of highly-organized defences, of
detailed acquaintance with our lines of approach from the west, and of
all the other tactical benefits of the defence.

Yet we had the advantage of moral factors. For the past nine weeks
the enemy had suffered defeat after defeat. He had at one time been
surprised and overwhelmed. He had at another time been driven from
strong positions under conditions when surprise played no part. He had
been defeated in gunnery, in the air, and in close Infantry fighting.
The _moral_ of his troops had steadily declined. They no longer hoped
for victory, but anticipated defeat. They knew that they were a beaten

The victory won in the series of battles from September 29th to October
5th was a victory of _moral_, the resolute determination of our troops
to overcome all obstacles prevailing against the failing spirits of
the defenders. It was a signal illustration that no defences, however
powerful, can resist an energetically pressed assault, unless the
defenders meet the attack with equal resolution. Verdun and the cliffs
of Gallipoli are examples of resolute defence. Port Arthur and the
Hindenburg line are equally striking instances of the collapse of
formidable field works through failure of the _moral_ of the defenders.

Montbrehain was the last Australian battle in the Great War, and the
fighting career of the Australian Army Corps had, as events turned out,
come to an end. On that same day my Second Division was relieved by the
30th American Division, and I handed over command of the battle front
to General Read. I had borne continuous responsibility, as a Corps
Commander, for a section of the battle front in France varying from
four to eleven miles for 128 consecutive days without a break.

On that same day, too, Prince Max of Baden accepted the programme
of the President of the United States of America, and requested him
to take in hand the restoration of peace. On behalf of the German
Government he also asked for an immediate Armistice on Land, Water and
in the Air.

The long-drawn-out negotiations which followed need only a brief
reference. It was first necessary for the Entente Powers to agree
upon a common line of action; then followed negotiations between the
plenipotentiaries of the belligerents, and hostilities did not actually
cease until after the conditions of the Armistice had been signed in
the early morning of November 11th.

During this period of five weeks, however, fighting went on. It was of
an altogether different character from that in which the Australian
Corps had been engaged. The enemy had no line of defence left in
France. He was compelled to a retreat which became general along
his whole front, and gathered momentum day by day. He gave up Lens,
Armentières and the Aubers Ridge without a struggle, thus enabling the
Second and Fifth Armies to advance to the occupation of Lille and the
adjacent industrial centres.

A great army recoiling rapidly upon itself is beset with even greater
difficulties than an army sweeping rapidly forward. If its retreat
is not to be converted into a rout, time must be allowed for the
methodical withdrawal, in proper sequence, of the whole complex
organization in rear of the battle front. Headquarters and hospitals,
workshops and aerodromes, depots and supplies must be dismantled,
packed and re-established further in rear; guns, transport and reserve
troops must be withdrawn stage by stage, and, last of all, the fighting
line must fall back in sympathy with the rate of withdrawal of all in

Every hour's delay is an hour gained. Roads become congested, bridges
overtaxed, cohesion and discipline are imperilled. An enforced
withdrawal on so large a scale is one of the most difficult operations
of war.

The enemy's tactics during this period were, therefore, purely those
of delay, achieved by the methodical destruction of bridges, tearing
up of railways, and the blowing of great craters at every important
road intersection. These methods impeded the advance of our armies
quite as much as his rearguards, who invariably yielded to the smallest
demonstration of force.

Battles on the grand scale were now a thing of the past, and from the
completion of the capture of the Hindenburg defences up to the signing
of the Armistice there was no event in France of outstanding military

The pursuit of the enemy towards the eastern frontiers of France and
Belgium was, however, exhausting to the British and American troops
on the front which the Australian Corps had vacated. It was only a
question of time for the Corps to be again called upon, this time to
take its share of pursuit. The Armistice negotiations were dragging
out, and it was uncertain that they would be satisfactorily concluded.
The Australian Corps had had a month for a pleasant rest along the
banks of the Somme, between Amiens and Abbeville. It had had time to
carry out the extensive reorganizations required by the War Office. On
November 5th orders came for the Corps once again to move up to the

The First and Fourth Divisions led the return to the battle zone. The
remaining three Divisions were to follow. My Corps Headquarters, on
November 10th, commenced its move to Le Cateau, to occupy the very
château which had been inhabited by General von der Marwitz, the
Commander of the Second German Army, against whom the Australian Corps
had for so long been operating. I was actually on the way there on
November 11th when the order arrived for the cessation of hostilities.

The Australian Army Corps was therefore not again employed, either in
the final stages of pursuing the enemy out of France, or as part of the
Army of Occupation on German territory.

The Prime Minister of Australia forwarded to me, the day after my
arrival at Le Cateau, the following message:

  The Government and the people of Australia extend their heartiest
  congratulations on the triumphant conclusion of your great
  efforts. I am specially requested to convey to you their heartfelt
  thanks and deep admiration for your brilliant and great leadership,
  and for the way in which you and the brave men associated with
  you have borne the sufferings and trials of the past four
  years, and in common with the troops of all the Allied Nations
  brought the civilized peoples of the world through adversity to
  victorious peace. On behalf of the Government and the people of the
  Commonwealth, I assure you, and every Australian soldier in the
  field, that the Commonwealth is full of pride and admiration of
  their endurance and sacrifice. The Australian soldiers are entitled
  to, and shall receive, not only the thanks of a grateful people,
  but that treatment which their great services deserve.


Not long after the conclusion of hostilities I was called upon by
my Government to undertake the organization and direction of a
special department to carry out the repatriation of the whole of the
Australian Imperial Force, in Europe, Egypt, Salonika and Mesopotamia.
This compelled me to sever, with much regret, my close and intimate
association with the personnel of the Army Corps.

Before proceeding to England to establish the new department, I issued
the following Farewell Order:

  Upon relinquishing the command of the Australian Army Corps,
  in order to take up the important and difficult work of the
  Repatriation and Demobilization of the Australian Imperial Force,
  which has been entrusted to me by the Commonwealth Government, I
  desire to offer to all ranks of the Corps a heartfelt expression of
  my gratitude to all for the splendid and loyal support which they
  have rendered to me during the past six months.

  It has been the period during which the Corps has attained its
  highest development, as a fighting organism, of cohesion and
  efficiency. This has been brought about alike by the valour of
  the troops of all arms and services, and by the splendid devotion
  of Commanders, Staffs, and Regimental Officers, and has resulted
  in the series of brilliant victories which have contributed in so
  high a measure to the overthrow and utter collapse of our principal

  For the remainder of the period during which the Corps will
  continue to act as a military body, held in readiness for any
  emergency that may arise during the peace negotiations, I am
  confident that every man will strive to do all in his power to
  uphold the great renown which the Corps has so worthily won.

  But, having completed our task in the main object which brought
  us from our distant homeland, and having thereby safeguarded the
  future of our Nation by the conquest of our most formidable enemy,
  we are now faced with another and an equally important task,
  namely, to prepare ourselves to resume our duties of citizenship
  and to assist individually and collectively in the reconstruction
  of the Australian Nation. Our numbers and our prestige place
  this opportunity in our hands, and impose upon us this great

  I feel sure that every man in the Corps will in this also worthily
  respond to the call of duty, and will co-operate loyally and
  self-sacrificingly in the realization of all plans and projects
  which will be developed to so worthy an end.



The time has arrived when it is proper to take stock of gains and
losses, and to endeavour to appraise, at its true value, the work done
by the Australian Army Corps during its long-sustained effort of the
last six months of its fighting career.

It has become customary to regard the actual captures of prisoners and
guns as a true index of the degree of success which has attended any
series of battle operations. Every soldier knows, however, that such a
standard of judgment, applied alone, would render but scant justice.
The actual captures in any engagement depend more upon the state of
_moral_ of the enemy and the temperament of the attacking troops than
upon the military quality of the battle effort considered as a whole.
While large captures necessarily imply great victories, it does not by
any means follow that small captures imply the reverse.

Nevertheless, judged by such a purely arbitrary standard, the
performances of the Australian Army Corps during the period under
review are worthy of being set out in particular detail.

From March 27th, when Australian troops were for the first time
interposed to arrest the German advance, until October 5th, when they
were finally withdrawn from the line, the total captures made by them

  Prisoners              29,144
  Guns                      338

No accurate record was ever kept of the capture of machine guns,
trench mortars, searchlights, vehicles and travelling kitchens or
pharmacies, nor of the quantity of Artillery ammunition, which alone
must have amounted to millions of rounds.

During the advance, from August 8th to October 5th, the Australian
Corps recaptured and released no less than 116 towns and villages.
Every one of these was defended more or less stoutly. This count of
them does not include a very large number of minor hamlets, which
were unnamed on the maps, nor farms, brickfields, factories, sugar
refineries, and similar isolated groups of buildings, every one of
which had been fortified and converted by the enemy into a stronghold
of resistance.

Although the amount of territory reoccupied, taken by itself, is
ordinarily no criterion of value, the whole circumstances of the
relentless advance of the Australian Corps make it a convenient
standard of comparison. The total area of all the ground fought over,
from the occupation of which the enemy was ejected, amounted in the
period under consideration to 394 square miles.

A much more definite and crucial basis for evaluating the military
successes of the Corps is the number of enemy Divisions actually
engaged and defeated in the course of the operations. Very accurate
records of these have been kept, and every one of them was identified
by a substantial contribution to the list of prisoners taken. An
analysis of this investigation produced the following results:

The total number of separate enemy divisions engaged was thirty-nine.
Of these, twenty were engaged once only, twelve were engaged twice,
six three times, and one four times. Each time "engaged" represents
a separate and distinct period of line duty for the enemy Division
referred to.

Up to the time of the Armistice we had definitely ascertained that
at least six of these thirty-nine enemy Divisions had been entirely
disbanded as the result of the battering which they had received.
Their numberings have already been given. It is more than probable
that several other Divisions shared the same fate, by reason of the
number of prisoners actually taken, and the other casualties known to
have been inflicted. Up to the time when the signing of the Armistice
precluded further inquiries, absolutely conclusive evidence of their
disappearance had not been obtained.

In such an analysis it is possible to go even further, and to compare
the tangible results achieved with the relative strength of the forces
engaged. The Australian Army Corps of five Divisions represented 9½
per cent. of the whole of the remaining 53 Divisions of the British
Army engaged on the Western Front. Its captures in prisoners, by the
same comparison, and within the period reviewed--_i.e._, March 27th to
October 5th--was 23 per cent., in guns 23½ per cent., and in territory
reoccupied was 21½ per cent. of the whole of the rest of the British

The ratio, therefore, of the results to the strengths, as between the
five Australian Divisions and the whole of the rest of the British
Army, was as follows:

  Prisoners                  2.42 times.
  Territory                  2.24   "
  Guns                       2.47   "

It is not, however, by the mere numerical results disclosed by such a
comparison that the work of the Australian Army Corps should be judged.
If a broad survey be made of the whole of the 1918 campaign, I think
that the decisive part which the Corps took in it will emerge even more

Such a survey will show that the whole sequence of events may be
divided into five very definite and clearly-marked stages. The first
was the arrest and bringing to naught of the great German spring
offensive; the second was the conversion of the enemy's offensive
strategy into a distinct and unqualified defensive. Next followed the
great, initial and irredeemable defeat of August 8th, which, according
to the enemy's own admissions, was the beginning of the end. Then came
the denial to the enemy of the respite which he sought on the line of
the Somme, which might well have helped him to recover himself for
another year of war; and, finally, there was the overthrow of his great
defensive system, on which he relied as a last bulwark to safeguard his
hold upon French soil, a hold which would have enabled him to bargain
for terms.

It must never be forgotten that whatever claims may be made to the
contrary, Germany's surrender was precipitated by reason of her
military defeat in the field. Her submarine campaign, disappointing to
her expectations as it had been, was still a potent weapon. Her fleet
was yet intact. Our blockade was grievous, but she did in fact survive
it, even though it continued in force for a full eight months after
her surrender. The defection of Bulgaria and the collapse of Turkey
might conceivably be a source of increased military strength, even if
one of greater political weakness. Had she been able to hold us at bay
in France and Belgium for but another month or six weeks, she could
have been assured of a respite of three months of winter in which to
organize a levy en masse. Who can say that the stress of another winter
and the prospect of another year of war might not have destroyed the
Entente combination against her?

On these grounds I believe that the real and immediate reason for the
precipitate surrender of Germany on October 5th, 1918, was the defeat
of her Army in the field. It followed so closely upon the breaching
of the Hindenburg defences on September 29th to October 4th, that it
cannot be dissociated from that event as a final determining cause.

Whether this view be correct or not, I think that the claim may fairly
be made for the Australian Army Corps, that in each of the stages of
the operations which led to this military overthrow, the Corps played
an important, and in some of them a predominating, part. No better
testimony for such a conclusion can be adduced than the admissions of
Ludendorff himself.

Narrowing our survey of the closing events of the campaign to a
consideration of the fighting activities of the Australian Corps,
I would like to emphasize the remarkable character of that effort.
Deprived of the advantage of a regular inflow of trained recruits,
and relying practically entirely for any replenishments upon the
return of its own sick and wounded, the Corps was able to maintain
an uninterrupted fighting activity over a period of six months. For
the last sixty days of this period the Corps maintained an unchecked
advance of thirty-seven miles against the powerful and determined
opposition of a still formidable enemy, who employed all the mechanical
and scientific resources at his disposal.

Such a result alone, considered in the abstract and quite apart from
any comparison with the performances of other forces, is a testimony,
on the one hand, to the pre-eminent fighting qualities of the
Australian soldier considered individually, and, on the other hand, to
the collective capacity and efficiency of the military effort made by
the Corps. I doubt whether there is any parallel for such a performance
in the whole range of military history.

As regards the troops themselves, the outstanding feature of the
campaign was their steadily rising _moral_. Always high, it was, in
spite of fatigue and stress, never higher than in the closing days. A
stage had been reached when they regarded their adversary no longer
with cautious respect but with undisguised contempt.

On the part of the troops it was a remarkable feat of physical and
mental endurance to face again and yet again the stress of battle. To
the infantry a certain measure of periodical rest was accorded, but
the Artillery and technical services had scarcely any respite at all.
Almost every day of the whole period they worked and fought, night and
day, under the fire of the enemy's batteries, and under his drenching,
suffocating gas attacks, for our battery positions were the favourite
targets for his gas bombardments.

On the part of the staffs it was a period of ceaseless toil, both
mental and physical. The perfection of the staff work, its precision,
its completeness, its rapidity, its whole-souled devotion to the
service of the troops, were the necessary conditions for the victories
which were won.

Another outstanding feature was the uniformity of standard achieved
by all the five Divisions, as well as the wonderful comradeship which
they displayed towards each other. Omitting altogether the performances
of any one of them in the previous years of the war, it is noteworthy
that all so fully seized the opportunities that presented themselves,
that each could boast of outstanding achievements during this
period--the First Division for its capture of Lihons and the battles of
Chuignes and Hargicourt, the Second Division for Mont St. Quentin and
Montbrehain, the Third for Bray, Bouchavesnes and Bony, the Fourth for
Hamel and Hargicourt, and the Fifth for Péronne and Bellicourt.

[Illustration: MAP J.]

I must also pass in brief review the losses which the Corps suffered
during its advance. From August 8th to October 5th the total battle
casualties were as follows:

  Killed                     3,566
  Died of wounds             1,432
  Wounded                   16,166
  Missing                       79
      Total                 21,243

Averaging these losses over all five Divisions for the whole period,
they amount to a wastage from all causes of seventy men per Division
per day, which must be regarded as extraordinarily moderate, having
regard to the strenuous nature of the fighting, the great results
achieved, and the much higher rate of losses incurred by Australian
troops during the previous years of the war. Even during periods of
sedentary trench warfare the losses averaged forty per Division per day.

The total losses of the Army Corps during this period were, indeed,
only a small fraction of Australia's contribution to the casualty roll
for the whole period of the war. It was the least costly period, for
Australia, of all the fighting that her soldiers underwent. Had it been
otherwise, the effort could not have been maintained for so long, nor
could the spirit of the troops have been sustained. It was the low cost
of victory after victory which spurred them on to still greater efforts.

Of the causes which contributed to so gratifying a result, much credit
must be given to the great development in 1918 of mechanical aids, in
the form of Tanks, and to a considerable augmentation of aeroplanes,
Artillery and Lewis guns. Of all these the Corps proved eager to avail
itself to the full.

But the main cause is, after all, the recognition of a principle of
text-book simplicity, which is that a vigorous offensive is in the
long run cheaper than a timorous defensive. No war can be decided by
defensive tactics. The fundamental doctrine of the German conception of
war was the pursuit of the unrelenting offensive; it was only when the
Entente Armies, on their part, were able and willing themselves to put
such a doctrine into practice that our formidable enemies were overcome.

It may be that hereafter I may be charged with responsibility for
so relentlessly and for so long committing the troops of the Corps
to a sustained aggressive policy. Such criticisms have already been
whispered in some quarters. But I am sure that they will not be shared
by any of the men whom it was my privilege to command. They knew that
an offensive policy was the cheapest policy, and the proof that they
accepted it as the right one was their ever-rising _moral_ as the
campaign developed.

"Feed your troops on victory," is a maxim which does not appear in
any text-book, but it is nevertheless true. The aim and end of all
the efforts and of all the heavy sacrifices of the Australian nation
was victory in the field. Nothing that could be done could lead more
swiftly and more directly to its fulfilment than an energetic offensive
policy. The troops themselves recognized this. They learned to believe,
because of success heaped upon success, that they were invincible. They
were right, and I believe that I was right in shaping a course which
would give them the opportunity of proving it.

There are some aspects of the Australian campaign to which, before
closing this memoir, I should like to make brief reference. Success
depended first and foremost upon the military proficiency of the
Australian private soldier and his glorious spirit of heroism. I do
not propose to attempt here an exhaustive analysis of the causes
which led to the making of him. The democratic institutions under
which he was reared, the advanced system of education by which he was
trained--teaching him to think for himself and to apply what he had
been taught to practical ends--the instinct of sport and adventure
which is his national heritage, his pride in his young country, and the
opportunity which came to him of creating a great national tradition,
were all factors which made him what he was.

Physically the Australian Army was composed of the flower of the
youth of the continent. A volunteer army--the only purely volunteer
army that fought in the Great War--it was composed of men carefully
selected according to a high physical standard, from which, happily,
no departure was made, even although recruiting began to fall off in
the last year of the war, and there were some who had proposed a more
lenient recruiting examination. The cost to Australia of delivering
each fighting man, fully trained, to the battle front was too great to
permit of any doubt whether the physical quality of the raw material
would survive the wear and tear of war.

Mentally, the Australian soldier was well endowed. In him there was a
curious blend of a capacity for independent judgment with a readiness
to submit to self-effacement in a common cause. He had a personal
dignity all his own. He had the political sense highly developed, and
was always a keen critic of the way in which his battalion or battery
was "run," and of the policies which guided his destinies from day to

His intellectual gifts and his "handiness" made him an apt pupil. It
was always a delight to see the avidity with which he mastered the
technique of the weapons which were placed in his hands. Machine guns,
Lewis guns, Mills' bombs, Stokes' mortars, rifle grenades, flares,
fuses, detonators, Very lights, signal rockets, German machine guns,
German stick bombs, never for long remained a mystery to him.

At all schools and classes he proved a diligent scholar, and astonished
his instructors by the speed with which he absorbed and bettered his
instruction. Conservatism in military methods was no part of his creed.
He was always mentally alert to adopt new ideas and often to invent

His adaptability spared him much hardship. He knew how to make himself
comfortable. To light a fire and cook his food was a natural instinct.
A sheet of corrugated iron, a batten or two, and a few strands of wire
were enough to enable him to fabricate a home in which he could live at

Psychologically, he was easy to lead but difficult to drive. His
imagination was readily fired. War was to him a game, and he played
for his side with enthusiasm. His bravery was founded upon his sense
of duty to his unit, comradeship to his fellows, emulation to uphold
his traditions, and a combative spirit to avenge his hardships and
sufferings upon the enemy.

Taking him all in all, the Australian soldier was, when once
understood, not difficult to handle. But he required a sympathetic
handling, which appealed to his intelligence and satisfied his instinct
for a "square deal."

Very much and very stupid comment has been made upon the discipline
of the Australian soldier. That was because the very conception and
purpose of discipline have been misunderstood. It is, after all, only
a means to an end, and that end is the power to secure co-ordinated
action among a large number of individuals for the achievement of a
definite purpose. It does not mean lip service, nor obsequious homage
to superiors, nor servile observance of forms and customs, nor a
suppression of individuality.

Such may have been the outward manifestations of discipline in times
gone by. If they achieved the end in view, it must have been because
the individual soldier had acquired in those days no capacity to act
intelligently and because he could be considered only in the mass. But
modern war makes high demands upon the intelligence of the private
soldier and upon his individual initiative. Any method of training
which tends to suppress that individuality will tend to reduce his
efficiency and value. The proverbial "iron discipline" of the Prussian
military ideal ultimately broke down completely under the test of a
great war.

In the Australian Forces no strong insistence was ever made upon the
mere outward forms of discipline. The soldier was taught that personal
cleanliness was necessary to ensure his health and well-being, that a
soldierly bearing meant a moral and physical uplift which would help
him to rise superior to his squalid environment, that punctuality meant
economy of effort, that unquestioning obedience was the only road to
successful collective action. He acquired these military qualities
because his intelligence taught him that the reasons given him were
true ones.

In short, the Australian Army is a proof that individualism is the
best and not the worst foundation upon which to build up collective
discipline. The Australian is accustomed to team-work. He learns it
in the sporting field, in his industrial organizations, and in his
political activities. The team-work which he developed in the war was
of the highest order of efficiency. Each man understood his part and
understood also that the part which others had to play depended upon
the proper performance of his own.

The gunner knew that the success of the infantry depended upon his own
punctilious performance of his task, its accuracy, its punctuality,
its conscientious thoroughness. The runner knew what depended upon
the rapid delivery at the right destination of the message which he
carried. The mule driver knew that the load of ammunition entrusted
to him must be delivered, at any sacrifice, to its destined battery;
the infantryman knew that he must be at his tape line at the appointed
moment, and that he must not overrun his allotted objective.

The truest test of battle discipline was the confidence which every
leader in the field always felt that he could rely upon every man to
perform the duty which had been prescribed for him, as long as breath
lasted, and that he would perform it faithfully even when there was no
possibility of any supervision.

Thus the sense of duty was always very high, and so also was the
instinct of comradeship. A soldier, a platoon, a whole battalion would
sooner sacrifice themselves than "let down" a comrade or another unit.
There was no finer example of individual self-sacrifice, for the
benefit of comrades, than the Stretcher-bearer service, which suffered
exceedingly in its noble work of succouring the wounded, and exposed
itself unflinchingly to every danger.

The relations between the officers and men of the Australian Army were
also of a nature which is deserving of notice. From almost the earliest
days of the war violence was done to a deep-rooted tradition of the
British Army, which discouraged any promotion from the ranks, and
stringently forbade, in cases where it was given, promotion in the same
unit. It was rare to recognize the distinguished service of a ranker;
it was impossible for him to secure a commission in his own regiment.

The Australian Imperial Force changed all that. Those privates,
corporals and sergeants who displayed, under battle conditions, a
notable capacity for leadership were earmarked for preferment. If their
standard of education was good, they received commissions as soon as
there were vacancies to fill; if not, they were sent to Oxford or
Cambridge to be given an opportunity of improving both their general
and their special military knowledge.

As a general rule, they came back as commissioned officers to the very
unit in which they had enlisted or served. They afforded to all its men
a tangible and visible proof of the recognition of merit and capacity,
and their example was always a powerful stimulus to all their former

There was thus no officer caste, no social distinction in the whole
force. In not a few instances, men of humble origin and belonging
to the artisan class rose, during the war, from privates to the
command of Battalions. The efficiency of the force suffered in no
way in consequence. On the contrary, the whole Australian Army
became automatically graded into leaders and followers according
to the individual merits of every man, and there grew a wonderful
understanding between them.

The duties and responsibilities of the officers were always put upon
a high plane. They had, during all military service with troops, to
dress like the men, to live among them in the trenches, to share their
hardships and privations, and to be responsible for their welfare. No
officer dared to look after his own comfort until every man or horse
or mule had been fed and quartered, as well as the circumstances of
the moment permitted. The battle prowess of the Australian regimental
officer and the magnificent example he set have become household words.

[Illustration: The Toll of Battle--an Australian gun-team destroyed by
an enemy shell, September 1st, 1918.]

[Illustration: Inter-Divisional Relief--The 30th American and the 3rd
Australian Divisions passing each other in the "Roo de Kanga," Péronne,
during the "relief" after the capture of the Hindenburg Line, October
4th, 1918.]

Then there must be a word of recognition of the work of the devoted and
able Staffs. It was upon them, after all, that the principal burden of
the campaign rested. Upon them, their skill and industry, depended the
adequacy of all supplies and their proper distribution, the precision
of all arrangements for battle, the accuracy of all maps, orders and
instructions, the clearness of messages and reports, the completeness
of the information on which the Commander must base his decisions, and
the correct calculations of time and space for the movement of troops,
guns and transport. Their watchword was "efficiency."

"The Staff Officer is the servant of the troops." This was the ritual
pronounced at the initiation of every Staff Officer. It was a doctrine
which contributed powerfully to the success of the staff work as a
whole. It meant that the Staff Officer's duties extended far beyond
the mere transmission of orders. It became his business to see that
they were understood, and rightly acted upon, and to assist in removing
every kind of difficulty in their due execution. The importance of
accurate and reliable staff work can be understood when it is realized
that no mistake can happen without ultimately imposing an added stress
upon the most subordinate and most helpless of all the components of an
Army--the private soldier. An error in a clock time, the miscarriage
of a message, the neglect to issue an instruction, a misreading of an
order, an omission from a list of names, a mistake in a computation,
an incomplete inventory, are bound in the long run to involve an added
burden somewhere upon some private soldier.

The Staff of the Australian Army Corps, its Divisions and Brigades,
consisted during the last six months almost entirely of Australians,
many of them belonging to the permanent military forces of the
Commonwealth, but more still men who, before the war, followed civilian
occupations. Among both categories the quality of the staff work
steadily grew in efficiency, speed and accuracy, and during the last
period of active fighting it reached a very high standard indeed.

Had it been otherwise, I could not have carried out either the rapid
preparations for several of the greater battles, or the frequent and
complex interchanges of Divisions which alone rendered it possible
for me to keep up a continuous pressure on the enemy, or the
readjustments throughout the whole of the very large area always under
my jurisdiction which became necessary as the advance proceeded.

No reference to the staff work of the Australian Corps during the
period of my command would be complete without a tribute to the work
and personality of Brigadier-General T. A. Blamey, my Chief of Staff.
He possessed a mind cultured far above the average, widely informed,
alert and prehensile. He had an infinite capacity for taking pains.
A Staff College graduate, but not on that account a pedant, he was
thoroughly versed in the technique of staff work, and in the minutiæ of
all procedure.

He served me with an exemplary loyalty, for which I owe him a debt of
gratitude which cannot be repaid. Our temperaments adapted themselves
to each other in a manner which was ideal. He had an extraordinary
faculty of self-effacement, posing always and conscientiously as the
instrument to give effect to my policies and decisions. Really helpful
whenever his advice was invited, he never obtruded his own opinions,
although I knew that he did not always agree with me.

Some day the orders which he drafted for the long series of
history-making military operations upon which we collaborated will
become a model for Staff Colleges and Schools for military instruction.
They were accurate, lucid in language, perfect in detail, and always
an exact interpretation of my intention. It was seldom that I thought
that my orders or instructions could have been better expressed, and no
Commander could have been more exacting than I was in the matter of the
use of clear language to express thought.

Blamey was a man of inexhaustible industry, and accepted every task
with placid readiness. Nothing was ever too much trouble. He worked
late and early, and set a high standard for the remainder of the large
Corps Staff of which he was the head. The personal support which he
accorded to me was of a nature of which I could always feel the real
substance. I was able to lean on him in times of trouble, stress and
difficulty, to a degree which was an inexpressible comfort to me.

To the Commanders of the Five Divisions I have already made detailed
allusion. They were all renowned leaders. To all the Brigadiers of
Infantry and Artillery and to the Heads of the Administrative Services
who laboured under them, the limitations of space forbid my making any
individual reference. But they were all of them men to whose splendid
services Australia owes a deep debt of gratitude. In their hands the
honour of Australia's fighting men and the prestige of her arms were in
safe keeping.

None but men of character and self-devotion could have carried the
burden which they had to bear during the last six months of the war.
In spite of stress and difficulty, unremitting toil and wasted effort,
weary days and sleepless nights, fresh task piling upon the task but
just begun, labouring even harder during periods of so-called rest
than when their troops were actually in the line, this gallant band of
leaders remained steadfast of purpose, never faltered, never lost their
faith in final victory, never failed to impress their optimism and
their unflinching fighting spirit upon the men whom they commanded.

It may be appropriate to end this memoir on a personal note. I have
permitted myself a tone of eulogy for the triumphant achievements of
the Australian Army Corps in 1918, which I have endeavoured faithfully
to portray. Let it not be assumed on that account that the humble part
which it fell to my lot to perform afforded me any satisfaction or
prompted any enthusiasm for war. Quite the contrary.

From the far-off days of 1914, when the call first came, until the
last shot was fired, every day was filled with loathing, horror, and
distress. I deplored all the time the loss of precious life and the
waste of human effort. Nothing could have been more repugnant to me
than the realization of the dreadful inefficiency and the misspent
energy of war. Yet it had to be, and the thought always uppermost was
the earnest prayer that Australia might for ever be spared such a
horror on her own soil.

There is, in my belief, only one way to realize such a prayer. The
nation that wishes to defend its land and its honour must spare no
effort, refuse no sacrifice to make itself so formidable that no enemy
will dare to assail it. A League of Nations may be an instrument for
the preservation of peace, but an efficient Army is a far more potent

The essential components of such an Army are a qualified Staff, an
adequate equipment and a trained soldiery. I state them in what I
believe to be their order of importance, and my belief is based upon
the lessons which this war has taught me. In that way alone can
Australia secure the sanctity of her territory and the preservation of
her independent liberties.

Such a creed is not militarism, but is of the very essence of national
self-preservation. For long years before the war it was the creed of a
small handful of men in Australia, who braved the indifference and even
the ridicule of public opinion in order to try to qualify themselves
for the test when it should come. Four dreadful years of war have
served to convince me of the truth of that creed, and to confirm me in
the belief that the men of the coming generation, if they love their
country, must take up the burden which these men have had to bear.




  _Artillery_,   1st and 2nd Brigades (Anderson).
  _Infantry_,    1st Brigade          (Mackay).
                 2nd    "             (Heane).
                 3rd    "             (Bennett).


  _Artillery_,   4th and 5th Brigades (Phillips).
  _Infantry_,    5th Brigade          (Martin).
                 6th    "             (Robertson).
                 7th    "             (Wisdom).

THIRD DIVISION (Gellibrand):

  _Artillery_,   7th and 8th Brigades (Grimwade).
  _Infantry_,    9th Brigade          (Goddard).
                10th    "             (McNicoll).
                11th    "             (Cannan).


  _Artillery_,  10th and 11th Brigades (Burgess).
  _Infantry_,    4th Brigade           (Brand).
                12th    "              (Leane).
                13th    "              (Herring).


  _Artillery_,  13th and 14th Brigades (Bessel-Browne).
  _Infantry_,    8th Brigade           (Tivey).
                14th    "              (Stewart).
                15th    "              (Elliott).

The 3rd, 6th and 12th Artillery Brigades were Corps Troops not forming
part of any Division. The 9th Artillery Brigade was disbanded at the
end of 1916.


In order to illustrate the nature of the individual fighting carried
out by the Australian Corps, during the period covered by this book,
the following very small selection has been made from the official
records of deeds of gallantry by individual soldiers. In every one of
these twenty-nine cases, the VICTORIA CROSS has been awarded by His
Majesty the King:


  "At DERNANCOURT, on morning of 28th March, 1918, the enemy
  attacked our line, and his first wave succeeded in gaining an
  entry. Sergt. MacDougall, who was at a post in a flank company,
  realized the situation, and at once charged the enemy's second
  wave single-handed with rifle and bayonet, killing 7 and capturing
  Machine Gun which they had. This he turned on to them, firing
  from the hip, causing many casualties, and routing that wave. He
  then turned his attention to those who had entered, until his
  ammunition had run out, all the time firing at close quarters, when
  he seized a bayonet and charged again, killing three men and a
  German officer, who was just about to kill one of our officers. He
  then used a Lewis Gun on the enemy, killing many and enabling us to
  capture 33 prisoners. His prompt action saved the line and enabled
  us to stop the enemy advance."


  "Lieut. Storkey was in charge of a platoon which took part in
  the attack at BOIS DE HANGARD on morning of 7th April, 1918. On
  emerging from the wood, the enemy trench line was encountered, and
  Lieut. Storkey found himself with 6 men. While continuing his move
  forward, a large enemy party--about 80 to 100 strong--armed with
  several machine guns, was noticed to be holding up the advance of
  the troops on the right. Lieut. Storkey immediately decided to
  attack this party from the flank and rear, and while moving forward
  to the attack, was joined by Lieut. Lipscomb and four men. Under
  the leadership of Lieut. Storkey, this small party of 2 officers
  and 10 other ranks charged the enemy position with fixed bayonets,
  driving the enemy out, killing and wounding about 30 and capturing
  the remainder, viz.: 3 officers and 50 men, also one machine gun."


  "For conspicuous gallantry on the night of 24-25th April, 1918,
  during a counter-attack by his Battalion on strong enemy positions
  south of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, east of Amiens. Lieut. Sadlier's
  platoon, which was on the left of the Battalion, had to advance
  through a wood, where they encountered a strong enemy machine-gun
  post, which caused casualties and prevented the platoon from
  advancing. Although himself wounded, this officer at once collected
  his bombing section, and led them against the machine guns,
  succeeding in killing the crews and capturing two of the guns. By
  this time Lieut. Sadlier's party were all casualties, and he alone
  attacked a third enemy machine gun with his revolver, killing the
  crew of four and taking the gun. In doing so, he was again wounded,
  and unable to go on."

No. 1914, SERGEANT WILLIAM RUTHVEN, 22nd Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For most conspicuous bravery and daring in action during the
  attack at VILLE-SUR-ANCRE, near Albert, on 19th May, 1918.
  During the advance Sergeant Ruthven's Company suffered numerous
  casualties, and his Company Commander was severely wounded. He then
  assumed command of his portion of the assault, took charge of the
  Company Headquarters, and rallied the sections in his vicinity.
  As the leading wave approached its objective, it was subjected to
  heavy fire from an enemy Machine Gun at 30 to 40 yards' range,
  directly in front. This N.C.O., without hesitation, at once sprang
  out, threw a bomb which landed beside the post, and immediately
  rushed the position, bayoneting one of the crew and capturing the
  gun. He then encountered some of the enemy coming out of a shelter.
  He wounded two, captured six others in the same position, and
  handed them over to an escort from the leading wave, which had now
  reached the objective. Sergeant Ruthven then reorganized our men in
  his vicinity, and established a post in the second objective. Enemy
  movement was then seen in a sunken road about 150 yards distant.
  Without hesitation, and armed only with a revolver, he went over
  the open alone and rushed the position, shooting two Germans who
  refused to come out of their dug-out. He then single-handed mopped
  up this post, and captured the whole of the garrison, amounting in
  all to 32, and kept them until assistance arrived to escort them
  back to our lines. During the remainder of the day this gallant
  N.C.O. set a splendid example of leadership, moving up and down his
  position under fire, supervising consolidation and encouraging his

No. 1327, CORPORAL PHILLIP DAVEY, M.M., 10th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "In a daylight operation against the enemy position near MERRIS on
  June 28th, 1918, Corporal Davey's platoon advanced 200 yards and
  captured part of enemy line. While the platoon was consolidating,
  the enemy pushed a machine gun forward under cover of a hedge,
  and opened fire from close range, inflicting heavy casualties and
  hampering work. Alone Corporal Davey moved forward in the face of
  a fierce point-blank fire, and attacked the gun with hand grenades,
  putting half the crew out of action. Having used all available
  grenades, he returned to the original jumping-off trench, secured
  a further supply and again attacked the gun, the crew of which had
  in the meantime been reinforced. He killed the crew, 8 in all, and
  captured the gun. This gallant N.C.O. then mounted the gun in the
  new post and used it in repelling a determined counter-attack,
  during which he was severely wounded in both legs, back and

Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For conspicuous gallantry and initiative during the operations
  against VAIRE and HAMEL WOODS, east of Corbie, on the morning
  of the 4th July, 1918. When the barrage lifted and the Infantry
  advance commenced, the platoon of which he is a member was able
  to reach the first enemy defences through gaps which had been cut
  in the wires. The adjoining platoon got delayed in uncut barbed
  wire. This delay enabled the enemy machine guns to get into action,
  and enabled them to inflict a number of casualties among the men
  struggling through the wires, including the Company Commander,
  who was killed. L.-Corporal Axford, with great initiative and
  magnificent courage, at once dashed to the flank, threw his bombs
  amongst the machine-gun crews; followed up his bombs by jumping
  into the trench, and charging with his bayonet. Unaided he killed
  ten of the enemy and took 6 prisoners; he threw the machine
  guns over the parapet, and called out to the delayed platoon to
  come on. He then rejoined his own platoon, and fought with it
  during the remainder of the operations. Prior to the incidents
  above-mentioned, he had assisted in the laying out of the tapes for
  the jumping-off position, which was within 100 yards of the enemy.
  When the tapes were laid, he remained out as a special patrol to
  ensure that the enemy did not discover any unusual movement on our

No. 1936, PRIVATE HENRY DALZIEL, 15th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For his magnificent bravery and devotion to duty during operations
  near HAMEL WOOD, east of Corbie, on 4th July, 1918. He was No. 2
  of a Lewis Gun Section, and at the commencement of our advance his
  Company met with determined resistance from Pear Trench strong
  point, which was strongly garrisoned and manned by numerous machine
  guns. This strong point, undamaged by our artillery fire, was
  protected by strong wire entanglements. A heavy concentration of
  machine-gun fire caused heavy casualties and held up our advance.
  His Lewis Gun came into action and silenced enemy guns in one
  direction, when another enemy gun opened up from another direction.
  Private Dalziel dashed at it, and with his revolver killed or
  captured the entire crew and gun, and allowed our advance to
  continue. He was severely wounded in the hand, but carried on and
  took part in the capture of the final objective. He twice went
  over open ground under heavy enemy artillery and machine-gun fire
  to where our aeroplanes had dropped some boxes of ammunition,
  and carried back a box on each occasion to his gun, and though
  suffering from considerable loss of blood, he filled magazines and
  served his gun until severely wounded through the head."

No. 1689A, CORPORAL WALTER ERNEST BROWN, D.C.M., 20th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For gallant service on the morning of 6th July, 1918, north-east
  of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, east of Amiens. This N.C.O. was one of an
  advanced party from his Battalion making arrangements with the
  Battalion then in the line for relief by his own Battalion. As
  such he was under no obligation to participate in any offensive
  operations before his Battalion took over the line. During the
  night of 5th-6th July the Company to which he was attached
  carried out a minor operation resulting in the capture of a small
  system of enemy trench. Early on the morning of 6th July an enemy
  strong post, about 70 yards distant, caused the occupants of the
  newly-captured trench great inconvenience by persistent sniping.
  It was decided to rush this post. Hearing of this, Corporal Brown,
  on his own initiative, crept out along the shallow trench towards
  the enemy post, and then made a dash across No Man's Land towards
  this post. An enemy machine gun opened fire from another trench,
  and he had to take cover by lying down. He later made another dash
  forward, and succeeded in reaching his objective. With a Mills
  grenade in his hand, he stood at the door of a dug-out and called
  on the occupants to surrender. One of the enemy rushed out, a
  scuffle ensued, and Corporal Brown knocked him down with his fist.
  Loud cries of 'Kamerad' were then heard, and from the dug-out an
  officer and eleven other ranks appeared. Driving them before him,
  Corporal Brown brought back the complete party as prisoners to our


  "For exceptional gallantry in the attack near VILLERS-BRETONNEUX,
  on the 17th-18th July, 1918. Whilst leading his platoon with the
  first wave, Lieut. Borella noticed an enemy machine gun firing
  through our barrage--he ran out ahead of his men into the barrage,
  shot two German machine gunners with his revolver, and captured the
  gun. He then led his party, now reduced to ten men and two Lewis
  Guns, further on, against JAFFA TRENCH, which was very strongly
  held, but using his revolver, and later a rifle, with great effect,
  Lieut. Borella shot down the enemy right and left, and set such a
  splendid example, that the garrison were quickly shot and captured.
  Two large dug-outs were bombed here and thirty prisoners taken.
  After reorganization the enemy counter-attacked twice in strong
  force, on the second occasion outnumbering Lieut. Borella's platoon
  by ten to one; but he showed such coolness and determination, that
  the men put up an heroic resistance, and twice repulsed the enemy
  with very heavy loss. It is estimated that from 100 to 150 Germans
  were killed in this vicinity. When Lieut. Borella refused his left
  flank about 40 yards during the first counter-attack he sent his
  men back one at a time, and was himself the last to leave, under
  heavy fire."


  "During the attack east of VILLERS-BRETONNEUX, near Amiens, on the
  morning of 8th August, 1918, this officer led his Company with
  great dash, being well in front. On reaching the wire in front of
  the enemy trench, strong opposition was encountered. The enemy were
  holding a strong point in force about 40 yards beyond the wire, and
  commanded the gap with four machine guns and rifles. The advance
  was at once checked. Lieut. Gaby found another gap in the wire,
  and entirely by himself approached the strong point, while machine
  guns and rifles were still being fired from it. Running along the
  parapet, still alone, and at point-blank range, he emptied his
  revolver into the garrison, drove the crews from their guns, and
  compelled the surrender of 50 of the enemy, with four machine guns.
  He then quickly reorganized his men and led them on to his final
  objective, which he captured and consolidated. On the morning of
  the 11th August, 1918, during an attack east of FRAMERVILLE, Lieut.
  Gaby again led his Company with great dash on to the objective. The
  enemy brought heavy rifle and machine-gun fire to bear upon the
  line, but in the face of this heavy fire Lieut. Gaby walked along
  his line of posts, encouraging his men to quickly consolidate the
  line. While engaged on this duty he was killed by an enemy sniper."


  "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack
  north of ROSIÈRES on 9th August, 1918. Private Beatham showed
  such heroism and courage, that he inspired all officers and men
  in his vicinity in a wonderful manner. When the advance was held
  up by heavy machine-gun fire, Private Beatham dashed forward and,
  assisted by one man, bombed and fought the crews of four enemy
  machine guns, killing ten of them and capturing ten others. The
  bravery of the action greatly facilitated the advance of the whole
  Battalion and prevented casualties. In fighting the crew of the
  first gun he was shot through the right leg, but continued in the
  advance. When the final objective was reached and fierce fighting
  was taking place, he again dashed forward and bombed the machine
  gun that was holding our men off, getting riddled with bullets and
  killed in doing so."

No. 506, SERGEANT PERCY CLYDE STATTON, M.M., 40th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For most conspicuous gallantry and initiative in action near
  PROYART on 12th August, 1918. The platoon commanded by Sergeant
  Statton reached its objective, but the remainder of the Battalion
  was held up by heavy machine-gun fire. He skilfully engaged two
  machine-gun posts with Lewis Gun fire, enabling the remainder of
  his Battalion to advance. The advance of the Battalion on his left
  had been brought to a standstill by the heavy enemy machine-gun
  fire, and the first of our assaulting detachments to reach the
  machine-gun posts were put out of action in taking the first gun.
  Armed only with a revolver, in broad daylight, Sergeant Statton at
  once rushed four enemy machine-gun posts in succession, disposing
  of two of them, killing five of the enemy. The remaining two posts
  retired and were wiped out by Lewis Gun fire. This N.C.O.'s act had
  a very inspiring effect on the troops who had been held up, and
  they cheered him as he returned. By his daring exploit he enabled
  the attacking troops to gain their objective. Later in the evening,
  under heavy machine-gun fire, he went out again and brought in two
  badly-wounded men."


  "This officer is especially brought to notice for his wonderful
  gallantry, initiative and leadership on the morning of the 23rd
  August, 1918, when an attack was being made near MADAME WOOD, west
  of Vernandivukkers. The objectives of this Battalion were attained
  without serious opposition. The Battalion on the left flank were
  less fortunate. Here several well-posted machine-gun posts were
  holding up the attack, and heavy fire was being brought to bear on
  our left flank. When Lieut. McCarthy realized the situation, he at
  once engaged the nearest machine-gun post; but still the attacking
  troops failed to get forward. This officer then determined to
  attack the nearest post. Leaving his men to continue the fire
  fight, he, with two others, dashed across the open and dropped
  into a disused trench which had been blocked. One of his two men
  was killed whilst doing this. He was now right under the block
  over which the enemy machine gun was firing. The presence of head
  cover prevented the use of bombs. He therefore tunnelled a hole
  through the bottom of the block, through which he inserted his head
  and one arm. He at once shot dead the two men firing the gun. He
  then crawled through the hole he had made, and by himself charged
  down the trench. He threw his limited number of Mills bombs among
  the German garrison and inflicted more casualties. He then came
  in contact with two German officers, who fired on him with their
  revolvers. One of these he shot dead with his revolver, the other
  he seriously wounded. He then charged down the trench, using his
  revolver and throwing enemy stick bombs, and capturing three more
  enemy machine guns. At this stage, some 700 yards from his starting
  point, he was joined by the N.C.O., whom he had outdistanced when
  he crawled through the hole in the trench block mentioned above.
  Together they continued to bomb up the trench, until touch was
  established with the Lancashire Fusiliers, and in the meanwhile
  yet another machine gun had been captured. A total of 5 machine
  guns and 50 prisoners (37 unwounded and 13 wounded) was captured,
  while Lieut. McCarthy during his most amazing and daring feat
  had, single-handed, killed 20 of the enemy. Having cleared up a
  dangerous situation, he proceeded to establish a garrison in the
  line. Whilst doing this he saw a number of the enemy getting away
  from neighbouring trenches. He at once seized a Lewis Gun and
  inflicted further casualties on the enemy."


  "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the attack
  on HERLEVILLE WOOD, near Chuignes, on 23rd August, 1918. Early
  in the advance Lieut. Joynt's Company Commander was killed; he
  immediately took charge of the Company and led them with courage
  and skill. A great deal of the success of the operation in this
  portion of the sector was directly due to his magnificent work.
  When the advance was commenced the Battalion was moving into
  support to another Battalion. On approaching Herleville Wood,
  the troops of the leading Battalion lost all their officers and
  became disorganized. Under very heavy fire, and having no leaders,
  they appeared certain to be annihilated. Lieut. Joynt grasped
  the situation, and rushed forward in the teeth of very heavy
  machine-gun and artillery fire over the open. He got the remaining
  men under control, and worked them into a piece of dead ground,
  until he could reform them. He manoeuvred his own men forward,
  and linked them up with the men of the other Battalion. He then
  made a personal reconnaissance, and found that the fire from the
  wood was holding the whole advance up, the troops on his flanks
  suffering very heavy casualties. Dashing out in front of his men,
  he called them on, and by sheer force of example inspired them into
  a magnificent frontal bayonet attack on the wood. The audacity
  of the move over the open staggered the enemy, and Lieut. Joynt
  succeeded in penetrating the wood and working through it. By his
  leadership and courage a very critical situation was saved, and
  on this officer rests to the greatest extent the success of the
  Brigade's attack. When the Battalion on our left was held up on
  Plateau Wood, and was suffering severe casualties, Lieut. Joynt,
  with a small party of volunteers, worked right forward against
  heavy opposition, and by means of hand-to-hand fighting forced his
  way round the rear of the wood, penetrating it from that side, and
  demoralizing the enemy to such an extent that a very stubborn and
  victorious defensive was changed into an abject surrender. He was
  always in the hardest pressed parts of the line, and seemed to
  bear a charmed life. He was constantly ready to run any personal
  risk and to assist flank units. He continually showed magnificent
  leadership, and his example to his men had a wonderful effect on
  them, causing them to follow him cheerfully in his most daring
  exploits. He continued to do magnificent work until he was badly
  wounded by shell fire in the legs."


  "During the operations of the 26-27th August, 1918, east of BRAY,
  this N.C.O. showed most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to
  duty in the face of the enemy. He led his section through heavy
  enemy shelling to its objective, which he consolidated. Then
  single-handed he attacked an enemy machine gun which was enfilading
  the Company on his right, killed the man on the gun, and captured
  the post, which contained one officer (a Captain) and 10 men.
  After handing these over at Company Headquarters, he returned alone
  to the old system of trenches, in which were many machine guns;
  entered a trench and proceeded to mop it up, returning with 15
  prisoners in one squad and 14 in another, together with two machine
  guns. Again he returned to the system, this time with a Trench
  Mortar gun and crew, and proceeded to mop up a further portion of
  the trench, bringing in 22 prisoners, including one officer and
  3 machine guns. This last capture enabled the British troops on
  our left to advance, which they had not been able to do owing to
  machine-gun fire from these posts. His total captures were thus 2
  officers and 61 other ranks, together with 6 machine guns, and with
  the exception of the Trench Mortar assistance, it was absolutely an
  individual effort and done entirely on his own initiative."

No. 726, PRIVATE GEORGE CARTWRIGHT, 33rd Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For most conspicuous valour and devotion to duty. On the morning
  of the 31st August, 1918, during the attack on ROAD WOOD,
  south-west of Bouchavesnes, near Péronne, Private Cartwright
  displayed exceptional gallantry and supreme disregard for
  personal danger in the face of a most withering machine-gun
  fire. Two Companies were held up by a machine-gun firing from
  the south-western edge of the wood. Without hesitation, this man
  stood up, and walking towards the gun, fired his rifle from his
  shoulder. He shot the No. 1 Gunner; another German manned the gun,
  and he killed him; a third attempted to fire the gun and him he
  also killed. Private Cartwright then threw a bomb at the post, and
  on its exploding, he rushed forward, captured the gun and nine
  Germans. Our line then immediately rushed forward, loudly cheering
  him. This magnificent deed had a most inspiring effect on the whole
  line; all strove to emulate his gallantry. Throughout the operation
  Private Cartwright displayed wonderful dash, grim determination and
  courage of the highest order."

LIEUTENANT EDGAR THOMAS TOWNER, M.C., 2nd Australian Machine Gun

  "On 1st September, 1918, in the attack on MONT ST. QUENTIN, near
  Péronne, this officer was in charge of 4 Vickers guns operating on
  a front of 1,500 yards. During the early stages of the advance an
  enemy machine gun was causing casualties to our advancing Infantry.
  Locating the gun, Lieut. Towner dashed ahead alone, and succeeded
  in killing the crew with his revolver, capturing the gun, and
  then, by turning it against the enemy, inflicted heavy casualties
  on them. Advancing then past a copse from which the enemy were
  firing, he brought his guns into action, placing his fire behind
  the enemy and cutting them off. On their attempting to retire
  before the advancing Infantry, and finding they were prevented by
  this machine-gun fire, the party of 25 Germans surrendered. He then
  reconnoitred alone over open ground exposed to heavy machine-gun
  and snipers' fire, and by the energy, foresight and the promptitude
  with which he brought fire to bear on further enemy groups, enabled
  the Infantry to reach a sunken road. On moving his guns up to
  the sunken road, he found himself short of ammunition, so went
  back across the open under heavy fire and obtained a German gun,
  and brought it and boxes of ammunition into the sunken road. Here
  he mounted and fired the gun in full view of the enemy, causing
  the enemy to retire further, and enabling Infantry on the flank,
  who were previously held up, to advance. Enemy machine gunners
  having direct observation, flicked the earth round and under this
  gun, and played a tattoo along the top of the bank. Though one
  bullet went into his helmet and inflicted a gaping scalp wound, he
  continued firing. Subsequently he refused to go out to have his
  wound attended to, as the situation was critical and his place
  was with his men. Later in the day the Infantry were obliged to
  retire slightly, and one gun was left behind. Lieut. Towner, seeing
  this, dashed back over the open, carried the gun back in spite of
  terrific fire, and brought it into action again. He continued to
  engage the enemy wherever they appeared, and put an enemy machine
  gun out of action. During the following night he insisted on doing
  his tour of duty along with the other officers, and his coolness
  and cheerfulness set an example which had a great effect on the
  men. To steady and calm the men of a small detached outpost, he
  crawled out among the enemy posts to investigate. He remained out
  about an hour, though enemy machine guns fired continuously on the
  sector, and the Germans were moving about him. He moved one gun up
  in support of the Infantry post, and patrolled the communication
  saps which ran off this post into the German line during the
  remainder of the night. Next morning, after his guns assisted in
  dispersing a large party of the enemy, he was led away utterly
  exhausted, 30 hours after being wounded."

No. 2358, SERGEANT ALBERT DAVID LOWERSON, 21st Battalion, A.I.F.

  "At MONT ST, QUENTIN, north of Péronne, on the 1st September,
  1918, this N.C.O. displayed courage and tactical skill of the
  very highest order during the attack on this village. Very strong
  opposition was met with early in the attack, and every foot of
  ground was stubbornly contested by the enemy located in very
  strong positions. This N.C.O.'s example during the fighting was
  of the greatest value. He moved about, regardless of the heavy
  enemy machine-gun fire, directing his men, encouraging them to
  still greater effort, and finally led them on to the objective.
  On reaching the objective, he saw that the left attacking party
  had not met with success, and that the attack was held up by an
  enemy strong post, heavily manned with 12 machine guns. Under the
  heaviest sniping and machine gun fire Sergeant Lowerson rallied
  seven men around him into a storming party, and deployed them to
  attack the post from both flanks, one party of three being killed
  immediately. He himself then rushed the strong point, and, with
  effective bombing, inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy, and
  captured the post containing 12 machine guns and 30 prisoners.
  Though severely wounded in the right thigh, he refused to leave the
  front line until the prisoners had been dispatched to the rear, and
  the organization and consolidation of the post by our men had been
  completed. When he saw that the position was thoroughly secure,
  he returned to the rear, but refused to leave the Battalion until
  forced to evacuate two days later by the seriousness of his wound.
  This act was the culminating point of a series of most gallant
  performances by this N.C.O. during the fighting extending over a


  "During the attack on PÉRONNE, on the morning of 1st September,
  1918, Private Currey displayed most conspicuous gallantry and
  daring. During the early stage of the advance the Battalion was
  suffering heavy casualties from a 77 mm. Field Gun, that was
  firing over sights at very close range. Private Currey, without
  hesitation, rushed forward, and despite a withering machine-gun
  fire that was directed on him from either flank, succeeded in
  capturing the gun single-handed after killing the entire crew.
  Later, when continuing the advance, an enemy strong point,
  containing 30 men and two machine guns, was noticed, which was
  holding up the advance of the left flank. Private Currey crept
  around the flank, and engaged the post with a Lewis Gun, causing
  many casualties. Finally, he rushed the post single-handed,
  killing four, wounding two, and taking one prisoner, the survivors
  running away. It was entirely owing to his gallant conduct that
  the situation was relieved, and the advance enabled to continue.
  After the final stage of the attack, it was imperative that one of
  the Companies that had become isolated should be withdrawn. This
  man at once volunteered to carry the message, although the ground
  to be crossed was very heavily shelled and continuously swept by
  machine-gun fire. He crossed the shell and bullet-swept area three
  times in the effort to locate the Company, and on one occasion his
  box respirator was shot through by machine-gun bullets, and he was
  gassed. Nevertheless, he remained on duty, and after finding the
  isolated Company, delivered the message, and returned with very
  valuable information from the Company Commander. Owing to the gas
  poisoning from which he was suffering Currey had shortly afterwards
  to be evacuated."

No. 6939, PRIVATE ROBERT MACTIER, 23rd Battalion, A.I.F.

  "On the morning of 1st September, 1918, during the operation
  entailing capture of MONT ST. QUENTIN, this man stands out for
  the greatest bravery and devotion to duty. Fifteen minutes before
  zero two bombing patrols were sent to clear up several enemy
  strong points close to our line, but they met with very stubborn
  resistance and no success, and the Battalion was unable to move on
  to its Jumping Off Trench. Mactier, single-handed and in daylight,
  then jumped out of the trench from the leading Company, rushed past
  the block, closed with and killed the machine-gun garrison of 8 men
  with his revolver and bombs, and threw the enemy machine gun over
  the parapet. He rushed forward another 20 yards and jumped into
  another strong point held by a garrison of 6 men, who immediately
  surrendered. Continuing to the next block through the trench, an
  enemy gun, which had been enfilading our flank advancing troops,
  was swung on to him; but he jumped out of the trench into the open,
  and disposed of this third post and gun crew by bombing them from
  the rear. Before he could get into this trench, he was killed by
  enemy machine gun at close range. In the three posts which Mactier
  rushed, 15 of the enemy were found killed and 30 taken prisoners."


  "For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at PÉRONNE
  during the operations on 1st-2nd September, 1918. After passing
  the first objective, his half Company and part of the Company on
  the flank were held up by an enemy machine-gun nest. With one man
  he rushed the post, shooting 4 of the occupants and taking 22
  prisoners. Later on, reaching a moat, another machine-gun nest
  commanded the only available foot-bridge. Whilst this was being
  engaged from a flank, this N.C.O. endeavoured to cross the bridge
  and rush the post, but was killed in the attempt. Throughout the
  advance he had displayed great initiative, resource and courage,
  being a great inspiration to his men. In order to avert casualties
  amongst his comrades and to permit of their advance, he voluntarily
  essayed a task which practically meant certain death. He set a fine
  example of self-sacrificing devotion to duty and bravery."

No. 2631, CORPORAL ARTHUR CHARLES HALL, 54th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For most conspicuous gallantry, brilliant leadership and devotion
  to duty during the operations at PÉRONNE on 1st and 2nd September,
  1918. A machine-gun post in the enemy front line was holding up
  the advance; alone, this N.C.O. rushed the position, shot 4 of the
  occupants as he advanced, and captured 9 others and 2 machine guns.
  Then, crossing the objective with a small party, he reconnoitred
  the approaches to the town, covering the infiltration of the
  remainder of the Company. During the mopping up he continuously--in
  advance of the main party--located enemy posts of resistance, and
  then personally led parties to the assault. In this way he captured
  many small parties of prisoners and machine-guns. On the morning
  of 2nd September, during a heavy barrage on the newly consolidated
  position, a man of his platoon was severely wounded. Seeing that
  only immediate medical attention could save him, Corporal Hall
  volunteered and carried the man out of the barrage, handed him to
  a stretcher-bearer, and immediately returned to his post. This
  Company was heavily engaged throughout the day, only one Officer
  remaining unwounded."

Battalion, A.I.F.

  "On the 2nd September, 1918, during operations north of PÉRONNE,
  Lance-Corporal Weathers was one of an advanced bombing party
  operating well forward of our attacking troops. Just before the
  attack reached its final objective it was held up by the enemy,
  who occupied a trench in great numbers. After an hour's continuous
  fighting Lance-Corporal Weathers went forward alone in face of
  heavy enemy fire and located a large body of them. He immediately
  attacked the enemy with bombs and killed the senior officer; then
  made his way back to our lines and, securing a further supply of
  bombs and taking three men with him, he went forward and again
  attacked under very heavy fire. On reaching the enemy position,
  he jumped up on the parapet of the trench and threw bombs among
  the Bosche. He then signalled for his comrades to come up, and the
  remainder of the enemy, seeing this, surrendered. When counted, the
  number of prisoners totalled 100 and 3 machine guns."

No. 3244, PRIVATE JAMES PARK WOODS, 48th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during the
  operations near LE VERGUIER, north-west of St. Quentin, on the 18th
  September, 1918. Woods formed one of a party of three to patrol
  the right flank. He encountered a very formidable enemy strong
  point, consisting of about 25 men with four heavy and two light
  machine guns. This strong point commanded the greater portion of
  our position, and it was of the utmost importance to us, insomuch
  as it gave us a commanding view of the whole canal system. The
  strong point was situated at the junction of four enemy fire
  trenches, apparently sited with a view to protecting the approaches
  to the village of Bellenglise. Private Woods, appreciating the
  great importance of this position, and realizing the necessity
  for its immediate capture, fearlessly attacked with his rifle and
  bayonet, capturing one of the enemy and wounding the second with
  his bayonet, forcing the remainder to retire. After the capture of
  the strong point, it was found that one of the party was wounded.
  Private Woods, although himself slightly gassed, stubbornly
  defended the post. The enemy ascertaining that only two men opposed
  them, immediately attempted to recapture the strong point. The
  counter-attack by the enemy was carried out with at least 30 men
  attacking up the three trenches and across the open ground. This
  meant that Private Woods was attacked from both flanks and the
  front. He fearlessly jumped on the parapet, and opened fire on
  the attacking enemy, inflicting several casualties. During this
  operation he was exposed to very heavy machine-gun, rifle fire
  and bombing, but with dogged determination he kept up his fire,
  thus holding up the enemy until help arrived, enabling the enemy
  counter-attack to be repulsed with heavy losses. The capture of
  this strong post was the means of securing our flank, which had
  previously been in the air, and also enabled us to get in touch
  with the troops on our flank."

No. 6594, SERGEANT GERALD SEXTON, 13th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "In the attack near LE VERGUIER, north-west of St. Quentin, on
  the 18th September, 1918, Sergeant Sexton displayed the most
  conspicuous bravery and performed deeds which, apart from their
  gallant nature, were in a great measure responsible for the
  Battalion's success. On the southern edge of the village of Le
  Verguier the enemy fought hard, and serious opposition had to
  be crushed. During the whole period of the advance, Sergeant
  Sexton was to the fore dealing with enemy machine guns by firing
  from the hip as he advanced, rushing enemy posts, and performing
  feats of bravery and endurance, which are better appreciated when
  one realizes that all the time he fired his Lewis Gun from the
  hip without faltering or for a moment taking cover. Immediately
  the attack commenced, Sergeant Sexton's Lewis Gun Section was
  confronted by an enemy machine gun. He called out to his section
  to follow, rushed the machine gun and killed the crew. He then
  called out to the rest of the Company to follow, but they had not
  gone far when they encountered some bombers and riflemen about 70
  yards in front of the Company. Sexton rushed the trench, firing
  his gun from the hip, and killed or took prisoner all the members
  of the post. Continuing, he entered a copse, and killed or took
  prisoner another party of the enemy. The advance continued over the
  ridge at Le Verguier to where Sexton was met by Lieut. Price, who
  pointed out a party of the enemy manning a bank, and a field gun
  in action which was causing casualties and holding up a Company.
  There was also a trench mortar in action. Sergeant Sexton did not
  wait, but firing a few short bursts as he advanced, and calling
  out to his section to follow, rushed down the bank and killed the
  gunners on the field gun. Dashing out on to a flat under fire from
  two hostile machine guns directed on him, he killed 12 more of the
  enemy. Paying no heed to the machine-gun fire, he returned to the
  bank, and after firing down some dug-outs, induced about 30 of the
  enemy to surrender. Owing to his action the Company on the left
  of the Battalion was able to continue the advance where they had
  been definitely held up, and were suffering from the effects of the
  field gun. When the advance was continued from the first to the
  second objective, the Company was again held up by two machine guns
  on the right and one on the left. In conjunction with a Platoon,
  Sexton engaged the machine gun on the left, firing all the while
  from the upright position, a fearless figure which, according to
  eye-witnesses, inspired everyone. To have taken cover would have
  been more prudent, but Sexton realized that prompt action was
  essential, and did not wait to assume the prone position. Silencing
  this gun, he turned his attention to the two machine guns on the
  right and silenced them. He then moved forward into a trench,
  killing quite a number of the enemy and, advancing along a sap,
  took a few prisoners. Further on he was responsible for a few more
  small posts, and, on the final objective, being given a responsible
  post on the left of his Company, he engaged a machine gun which
  was firing across the Company front, and thus enabled his Company
  to dig in. This completed, he went forward down a sunken road and
  captured several more prisoners."


  "During the period 29th September-1st October, 1918, in the
  operations against the HINDENBURG LINE at BELLICOURT, and the
  Major Wark, in command of the 32nd Battalion, displayed most
  conspicuous gallantry and set a fine example of personal bravery,
  energy, coolness, and control under extremely difficult
  conditions. On 29th September, under heavy artillery and
  machine-gun fire at very close range from all sides and in a dense
  fog, Major Wark, finding that the situation was critical, moved
  quickly forward alone and obtained sufficient information regarding
  the situation in front to be able to lead his command forward. At
  this time American troops were at a standstill and disorganized,
  and Major Wark quickly organized more than 200 of them, and
  attached them to his leading Companies and pressed forward. By
  his prompt action in the early stages of the battle he narrowly
  averted what would have resulted in great confusion on the part
  of the attack-troops. Still moving fearlessly at the head of his
  leading Companies, and at most times far out in advance, attended
  only by a runner, he cheered his men on, and they swept through the
  Hindenburg defences towards Nauroy. Pushing quickly through Nauroy,
  and mopping up the southern portion of the village, the process
  yielding 50 prisoners, the Battalion swung towards Etricourt.
  Still leading his assaulting Companies, he observed a battery of
  77 mm. guns firing point-blank into his rear Companies and causing
  heavy casualties. Calling on a few of his men to him he rushed the
  battery, capturing the 4 guns and 10 of the crew; the remainder of
  the crew fled or were killed. Moving rapidly forward with only two
  N.C.O.'s, he surprised and captured 50 Germans near Magny la Fosse.
  Quickly seizing this opportunity, he pushed one Company forward
  through the village and made good the position. Having captured
  his objectives for the day, and personally reconnoitring to see
  that his flanks were safe, he found his command in a very difficult
  and dangerous position, his left flank being exposed to the extent
  of 3,000 yards on account of the 31st Battalion not being able
  to advance. He, after a strenuous day's fighting, set about the
  selection and reorganization of a new position, and effected a
  junction with British troops on the right and 31st Battalion on the
  left, and made his line secure. At 6 a.m. on 30th September, he
  again led his command forward to allow of the troops on the right
  being able to advance. The men were tired and had suffered heavily,
  but he personally led them, and his presence amongst them inspired
  them to further efforts. On October 1st, 1918, his Battalion was
  ordered to advance at very short notice. He gave his orders for the
  attack, and personally led his troops forward. A nest of machine
  guns was encountered, causing casualties to his men. Without
  hesitation and regardless of personal risk, he dashed forward
  practically into the muzzles of the guns and under an exceptionally
  heavy fire and silenced them, killing or capturing the entire
  crews. Joncourt and Mill Ridge were then quickly captured and his
  line consolidated. His men were practically exhausted after the
  three days' heavy fighting, but he moved amongst them from post
  to post, across country swept by heavy and continuous shell and
  machine-gun fire at point-blank range, urged them on and the line
  was made secure. Throughout he displayed the greatest courage and
  devotion to duty, coupled with great tact and skill, and his work,
  together with the reports based on his own personal observations,
  which he forwarded, were invaluable to the Brigade. It is beyond
  doubt that the success achieved by the Brigade during the heavy
  fighting on 29th and 30th September and 1st October was due to this
  officer's gallantry, determination, skill and great courage."

No. 1717, PRIVATE JOHN RYAN, 55th Battalion, A.I.F.

  "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, and for saving a
  very dangerous situation under particularly gallant circumstances
  during an attack against the Hindenburg defences on 30th September,
  1918. In the initial assault on the enemy's positions this
  soldier went forward with great dash and determination, and was
  one of the first men of his Company to reach the trench which
  was their objective. Seeing him rush in with his bayonet with
  such exceptional skill and daring, his comrades were inspired and
  followed his example. Although the enemy shell and machine-gun fire
  was extremely heavy, the enemy trench garrison was soon overcome.
  In the assault the attacking troops were weakened by casualties,
  and, as they were too few to cover the whole front of attack, a
  considerable gap was left between Private Ryan's Battalion's left
  and the unit on the flank. The enemy counter-attacked soon after
  the objective was reached, and a few succeeded in infiltrating
  through the gap, and taking up a position of cover in rear of
  our men, where they commenced bombing operations. The section of
  trench occupied by Private Ryan and his comrades was now under fire
  from front and rear, and for a time it seemed that the enemy was
  certain to force his way through. The situation was critical and
  necessitated prompt action by someone in authority. Private Ryan
  found that there were no officers or N.C.O.'s near; they had become
  casualties in the assault. Appreciating the situation at once, he
  organized the few men nearest him, and led them out to attack the
  enemy with bomb and bayonet. Some of his party fell victims to the
  enemy's bombs, and he finally dashed into the enemy position of
  cover with only 3 men. The enemy were three times their number,
  but by skilful bayonet work they succeeded in killing the first
  three Germans on the enemy's flank. Moving along the embankment,
  Private Ryan alone rushed the remainder of the enemy with bombs.
  It was while thus engaged he fell wounded, but his dashing bombing
  assault drove the enemy clear of our positions. Those who were not
  killed or wounded by his bombs fell victims to our Lewis Gunners
  as they retired across No Man's Land. A particularly dangerous
  situation had been saved by this gallant soldier, whose display of
  determined bravery and initiative was witnessed by the men of the
  two attacking Battalions, who, inspired and urged by it, fought
  skilfully and bravely for two days."


  "On 3rd October, 1918, he took part as a Platoon Commander in an
  attack on the BEAUREVOIR-FONSOMME Line near Estrées, north of St.
  Quentin. His Company Commander was severely wounded soon after the
  jump off, and Lieut. Maxwell at once took charge of the Company.
  When the enemy wire was reached, they were met by a hail of
  machine-gun fire, and suffered considerable casualties, including
  all other officers of the Company. The wire at this point was six
  belts thick, each belt being 20 to 25 feet wide. Lieut. Maxwell
  pushed forward single-handed through the wire, and attacked the
  most dangerous machine gun. He personally killed three of the crew,
  and the remaining four men in the post surrendered to him with a
  machine gun. His Company followed him through the wire and captured
  the trenches forming their objective. Later, it was noticed that
  the Company on his left was held up in the wire by a very strong
  force on the left flank of the Battalion. He at once organized a
  party and moved to the left to endeavour to attack the enemy from
  the rear. Heavy machine-gun fire met them. Lieut. Maxwell again
  dashed forward single-handed at the foremost machine gun, and
  with his revolver shot five of its crew, so silencing the gun.
  Owing to the work of this party, the left Company was then able
  to work a small force through the wire, and eventually to occupy
  the objective and mop up the trenches. In the fighting prior to
  the mopping up, an English-speaking prisoner, who was captured,
  stated that the remainder of the enemy were willing to surrender.
  Lieut. Maxwell and two men, with this prisoner, walked to a post
  containing more than twenty Germans. The latter at once seized and
  disarmed our men. Lieut. Maxwell waited his chance, and then with
  an automatic pistol which he had concealed in his box respirator,
  shot two of the enemy and with the two men escaped. They were
  pursued by rifle fire, and one was wounded. However, Lieut. Maxwell
  organized a small party at once, attacked and captured the post."


  "During the attack on MONTBREHAIN, east of Péronne, on 5th October,
  1918, this officer was in charge of a platoon. About 100 yards
  from the Jumping Off Trench severe enemy machine-gun fire was
  encountered from a strong post which had escaped our Artillery
  fire, and the advance was thus held up. Lieut. Ingram dashed out,
  and, under cover of the fire of a Lewis Gun, rushed the post at
  the head of his men. This post contained 9 machine guns and 42
  Germans, who fought until our men were within 3 yards of them.
  They were killed to a man--Lieut. Ingram accounting for no less
  than 18 of them. A number of enemy posts were then observed to be
  firing on our men from about 150 yards further forward, and the
  Company moved forward to attack them, but severe casualties were
  sustained. The Company Commander had been badly wounded, and the
  Company Sergeant-Major and several others, who attempted to lead
  the advance, were killed. Our barrage had passed on, and no Tanks
  were near. Lieut. Ingram quickly seized the situation, rallied his
  men in the face of murderous fire, and, with magnificent courage
  and resolution, led them forward. He himself rushed the first post,
  shot 6 of the enemy, and captured a machine gun, thus overcoming a
  very serious resistance. By this time the Company had been reduced
  from 90 to about 30 other ranks; but this officer, seeing enemy
  fire coming from a quarry, to his left front, again led his men
  forward and rushed the quarry. He jumped into the quarry amongst
  enemy wire, and his men followed and proceeded to mop up a large
  number of the enemy who were in bivouacs there. He then observed an
  enemy machine gun firing from the ventilator of a cellar, through a
  gap in the wall of a house about 20 yards away. Without hesitation
  and entirely alone he scrambled up the edge of the quarry, ran
  round the rear of the house, and entering from the far side, shot
  the enemy gunner through the ventilator of the cellar. He fired
  several more shots into the cellar, then, seeing some enemy jumping
  out of the window of the house, he burst open a door, rushed to
  the head of the stairs leading into the cellar, and forced 62 of
  the enemy to surrender. He now found he was out of touch with the
  Company on his left flank, so went out alone and made a personal
  reconnaissance under heavy fire, and succeeded in gaining touch
  with the left Company, which had lost all its officers. Having
  returned to his Company, he personally placed a post on his left
  flank to ensure its safety, and then reconnoitred and established
  two posts on his right flank. All this was done in the face of
  continuous machine-gun and shell fire."

[Illustration: Australian Artillery--moving up to the front, through
the Hindenburg wire, October 2nd, 1918.]

[Illustration: Advance during Battle--Third Division Infantry and Tanks
advancing to the capture of Bony, October 1st, 1918.]



The following were the complete orders issued by the Australian Army
Corps for the Battle of August 8th, 1918. They form only a small part
of the whole of the orders which were required for the operation. There
were, in addition, detailed orders by the Corps Artillery Headquarters,
the Heavy Artillery, the Chief Engineer, and each of the five Divisions
and fifteen Brigades, and also by the Administrative Services of the

On the question of the form of the orders, the most expedient course
was found to be the one here adopted--namely, that of issuing a
numbered series of Battle Instructions, each dealing comprehensively
with a separate subject matter:


1. The Australian Corps will attack the enemy from the
VILLERS-BRETONNEUX--CHAULNES Railway exclusive to the River SOMME,
inclusive, at a date and hour to be notified.

The Canadian Corps will co-operate on the right, south of the railway
(inclusive), and the Third Corps on the left, north of the SOMME.

2. _General Method of Attack._--The Australian Corps will attack on a
two-division front. The attack will be carried out in three phases.
Divisional boundaries and objectives are shown on the attached map.

  (i) _First Phase._--The 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions will form
  up on a taped line prior to ZERO, and will attack with Tanks under
  a creeping artillery barrage. Their objective is shown by a GREEN
  line on the attached map.

  On arrival at their objective they will consolidate.

  (ii) _Second Phase._--The 5th and 4th Australian Divisions,
  organized in brigade groups, will advance in open warfare
  formations, from the first objective passing through 2nd and 3rd
  Australian Divisions respectively. Their objective is shown in RED
  on the map.

  (iii) _Third Phase._--The 5th and 4th Australian Divisions will
  exploit their success and seize the old British line of Defences
  marked BLUE on the map, and establish themselves defensively on
  this line.

  (iv) The 1st Australian Division will be in Corps Reserve.

  (v) A detailed programme of the action will be issued.

3. _Assembly._--In order to free as many troops from line duty as
possible, 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions will arrange to hold the
front with one infantry brigade on each Divisional sector. This will be
completed before daybreak on 5th August.

To prevent any troops arriving at their objectives in an exhausted
condition through a long march, troops detailed to the farthest
objectives must be quartered nearest the starting line prior to ZERO.

The brigades of 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions not holding the line
will be quartered in rear of all brigades of 5th and 4th Australian
Divisions respectively prior to ZERO night. This will be completed
before daybreak on 5th August.

The allotment of areas for quartering during this stage will be made
by mutual arrangement between Divisional Commanders concerned. The
allotment of routes and times of movement in accordance with the Corps
programme will be arranged similarly.

On ZERO night the brigades of 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions not in
the line will make their approach march to their tape lines through the
area occupied by 5th and 4th Australian Divisions respectively.

4. _Artillery._

  (i) The Artillery available consists of:

  18 Field Artillery Brigades.
  12 Heavy Artillery Brigades.

  (ii) G.O.C., R.A., Aust. Corps, will command all artillery of the
  Corps during the first phase of the operation.

  (iii) For the second phase G.O.C., R.A., Aust. Corps, will allot:

  (_a_) Three Field Artillery Brigades to 5th and 4th Aust. Divisions
  for distribution to infantry brigade groups. These will include the
  5th and 4th Aust. Divisional Artillery respectively.

  (_b_) Three brigades of Field Artillery and one battery of 60-pdr.
  Heavy Artillery allotted to each of the 5th and 4th Aust. Divisions
  for employment as may be ordered by the Divisional Commanders.

  (_c_) The remainder of the Field Artillery and the Heavy Artillery
  to Corps Reserve.

  (iv) Heavy Artillery will be pushed forward by G.O.C., R.A., to
  protect the troops in the second objective.

5. _Tanks._--Instructions for the distribution and employment of Tanks
will be issued later.

6. _Engineers._--Engineers and Pioneers will be distributed for work as
follows from midnight on 6th-7th instant:

  (i)  Corps Pool under Chief Engineer--
         1 Field Coy. from 4th Aust. Div.
         1 Field Coy. from 5th Aust. Div.
         2 Field Coys. from 2nd Aust. Div.
         2 Field Coys. from 3rd Aust. Div.
         3 Army Troops Coys. Engineers.
         5th Aust. Pioneer Bn.
         3rd Aust. Pioneer Bn.

  (ii) With Divisions:

  2nd Aust. Pioneer Bn. will serve 2nd and 3rd Aust. Divisions. 2
  Coys. to each.

  4th Aust. Pioneer Bn. will serve 4th and 5th Aust. Divisions. 2
  Coys. to each.

Divisional Commanders will control:

  2nd Aust. Division--1 Field Coy. and 2nd Aust. Pioneer
                        Bn. (less 2 Coys.).

  3rd Aust. Division--1 Field Coy. and 2 Coys. 2nd Aust.
                        Pioneer Bn.

  4th Aust. Division--2 Field Coys. and 4th Aust. Pioneer
                      Bn. (less 2 Coys.).

  5th Aust. Division--2 Field Coys. and 2 Coys. 4th Aust.
                      Pioneer Bn.

Tunnellers will be detailed to each division for dug-out exploration.

Chief Engineer, Aust. Corps, will arrange for the distribution in
accordance with this.

Chief Engineer will issue instructions for the withdrawal and storing
of demolition charges of bridges for which the Corps is responsible,
and for the return of engineer personnel employed on this work to their

7. Deputy Director of Medical Services will arrange for the
distribution of medical units.



(_a_) It is of first importance that secrecy should be observed and the
operation carried out as a surprise.

Commanders will take all possible steps to prevent the scope or date of
the operation becoming known except to those taking part. Any officer,
N.C.O., or man discussing the operation in public, or communicating
details regarding it to any person, either soldier or civilian, not
immediately concerned, will be severely dealt with.

(_b_) All movement of troops and transport will take place by night,
whether in the forward or back areas of the Australian Corps, on and
after 1st August, except where absolutely necessary to move by day.

(_c_) O.C., No. 3 Squadron, A.F.C., will arrange for aeroplanes to
fly over the Australian Corps Army area during days when flying is
possible, and to report to Corps H.Q. any abnormal movement of troops
or transport within our lines.

(_d_) Work on back lines will be continued as at present, so that there
may be no apparent change in our attitude.

(_e_) Commanders will ensure that the numbers of officers reconnoitring
the enemy's positions is limited to those for whom such reconnaissance
is essential.

Nothing attracts attention to an offensive more than a large number of
officers with maps looking over the parapet and visiting Observation

Commanding Officers of units holding the front line should report at
once to higher authority any disregard of these orders.



1. Communications will be carefully organized to ensure the maintenance
of communication throughout the advance and after its conclusion.

2. (i) Headquarters of Divisions will be established as follows:

  2nd Australian Division--GLISY.

  5th Australian Division--BLANGY-TRONVILLE Château.
                           Advanced Headquarters in
                           dug-outs at Railway cutting.

  3rd Australian Division--BUSSY.

  4th Australian Division--CORBIE.

(ii) Headquarters of Brigades and battalions will be selected in
advance, as far as this can be done, and all concerned will be notified
of their proposed locations.

3. Report Centres in advance of the heads of buried cables will be
selected in each Divisional Sector and details prepared for the
organization of communications back to cable head.

4. The following mounted troops are detailed to Divisions:

  To 2nd Australian Division--1 Troop 13th L.H.

     3rd Australian Division--1 Troop 13th L.H.

     4th Australian Division--2 Troops 13th L.H.

     5th Australian Division--2 Troops 13th L.H.

Divisions will inform O.C., 13th Light Horse, as to the time and place
at which the Light Horse will report.

The Cyclist Section now with Divisions will remain.

5. The employment of wireless will be exploited to the full.

6. Popham panels will be employed for communication between Infantry
and Aeroplanes.



(_a_) Ammunition will be dumped at or near gun positions as follows:

  18-pdr.               600 rounds.
  4.5" Howitzer         500 rounds.
  60-pdr.               400 rounds.
  6" guns               400 rounds.
  6" Howitzers          400 rounds.
  8" Howitzers          400 rounds.
  9.2" Howitzers        400 rounds.
  12" Howitzers         200 rounds.

Arrangements should be made to commence dumping this ammunition as soon
as feasible. Echelons will be kept full.

(_b_) Boundaries between Corps as regards bombardment and
counter-battery work coincide with the boundaries between Corps shown
on map issued with Australian Corps "Battle Instructions No. 1," dated
1st August, 1918.



1. Tanks are available as follows:

  _5th Tank Brigade._

  Mark V. Tanks--2nd Battalion--Lieut.-Col. E. D.
                                BRYCE, D.S.O.

  Mark V. Tanks--8th Battalion--Lieut.-Col. The Hon.
                                J. D. Y. BINGHAM,

                 13th Battalion--Lieut.-Col. P. LYON.

  Mark V. (Star) Tanks--15th Battalion--Lieut.-Colonel

  No. 1 G.C.Coy. (24 Carrying Tanks)--Major W. PARTINGTON,

2. _Mark V. Tanks_ are allotted as follows:

  13th Battalion (Lieut.-Col. LYON), less one company, to 3rd
  Australian Division.

  2nd Battalion (Lieut.-Col. BRYCE), plus one company 13th Battalion
  attached, to be employed with the two right Divisions--two
  companies to be allotted to each Division.

  8th Battalion (Lieut.-Col. The Hon. J. D. Y. BINGHAM) to 4th
  Australian Division.

One company of the 8th Battalion will be employed in support. It will
be specially charged with the function of maintaining the attack at
the junction of Divisions throughout the advance as far as the second

Command will be effected through Battalion Commanders in each case
except that Lieut.-Col. BRYCE will be responsible for command of all
Mark V. Tanks allotted to both 2nd and 5th Australian Divisions.

3. After the capture of the first objective, Tanks detailed to 2nd and
3rd Australian Divisions will rally and will be employed to support the
advance of the 5th and 4th Australian Divisions respectively.

4. After the capture of the second objective, Tanks will rally. One
company will remain in close support in each divisional sector; the
remainder will be withdrawn to positions to be arranged between
Divisional and Tank Commanders.

5. Mark V. (Star) Tanks are allotted as follows:

  1½ companies (18 tanks) to the 5th Australian Division.
  1½ companies (18 tanks) to the 4th Australian Division.

These tanks are allotted for the capture of the blue line.

_6. Carrying Tanks_ are allotted as follows:

  2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions--3 tanks each.

  4th and 5th Australian Divisions--9 tanks each.

7. Orders for forming up and movement to the Start Line will be issued
by G.O.C., 5th Tank Brigade.

Battalion Commanders detailed to Divisions will be responsible for all
liaison duty in connection with the Tanks.

8. For tactical purposes Tanks will be placed under the command of
Infantry Commanders to whose commands they are allotted.



_1. Preliminary Movement._

Tanks will be assembled in concealed positions in the forward area
under the orders of the 5th Tank Brigade prior to night Y/Z.

_2. Advance to Start Line._

On night Y/Z the Tanks allotted to troops attacking the first objective
will commence to move forward at 9.30 p.m. to the Tank Start Line. They
will move with full engines to a line not nearer to the Tank Start Line
than 3,000 yards. From there they will continue the movement forward to
the Tank Start Line, moving at a slow rate and as quietly as possible.
The Tank Start Line will be approximately 1,000 yards in rear of the
Infantry taped line.

Tanks will leave the Tank Start Line at such times as will allow them
to catch up to the Infantry as the barrage lifts at zero plus three

_3. Concealment of Engine Noise._

To conceal the noise of the engines during the advance of the Tanks,
the 5th Brigade R.A.F. will arrange to have planes flying continuously
over the Corps area from 9.30 p.m. until midnight on Y/Z night, and
from zero minus one hour onward to zero.

_4. Tanks allotted to Second Objective._

The Tanks allotted to the second objective will form up independently
under the orders of the 5th Tank Brigade in consultation with G.O.'s
C., 4th and 5th Australian Divisions. These Tanks will be formed up
when the aeroplanes are in the air during the hours laid down in para.

_5. Liaison Company._

The company of the 8th Tank Battalion detailed to act in support, and
to ensure liaison in the battle line at the junction of Divisions, will
detail a half-company to each wave of Tanks, vide paras. 2 and 4 above.

Divisions will detail special liaison parties of Infantry to work in
co-operation with this company.

_6. Re-assembly._

As soon as the blue line has been reached, G.O.C. 5th Australian
Division will arrange to release the 2nd Tank Battalion, less the
attached company. This battalion will then be withdrawn. The remainder
of the Tanks, less one company allotted to remain in support of each of
the 4th and 5th Australian Divisions, will be withdrawn when ordered by
Divisional Commanders, vide Battle Instructions No. 5, para. 4.

_7. Smoke Grenades._

Divisions will ensure that a proportion of smoke rifle grenades
accompanies each Infantry detachment detailed to the blue line and
which accompanies each of the Mark V. (Star) Tanks.



_1. Preparation._

Active counter-battery work and harassing fire will be maintained.

Such registration as is necessary will be carried out under cover of
this fire. A detailed programme for this will be arranged in each
divisional sector.

The necessity for concealing the increase in the number of guns on the
front must be borne in mind, and on no account should a large number
of guns be employed at any one time. Counter preparation and S.O.S.
plans during the period of preparation for the attack will be drawn up

Normal fire should, so far as possible, be carried out from positions
other than those in which batteries will be emplaced during the battle.

_2. Heavy Artillery._

  (_a_) In view of the nature of the enemy's defences, the fire of
  the majority of the heavy howitzers, employed for purposes other
  than counter-battery work, will be used during the barrage to
  engage special strong points or localities.

  (_b_) Throughout the advance beyond the green line enemy centres of
  resistance will be kept under fire until such time as the progress
  of the Infantry renders this inadvisable. A map will be issued to
  show the times at which heavy artillery fire will cease on zones
  and special localities.

  (_c_) At least two-thirds of the available Heavy Artillery will be
  employed for counter-battery purposes.

  Heavy concentrations of fire will be directed on the different
  groups of enemy artillery.

3. G.O.C., R.A., will prepare plans for dealing with a heavy
development of hostile fire on zero night. He will also prepare a
plan to deal with any attempt at a deliberate gas bombardment of the
VILLERS-BRETONNEUX area on zero night.



_1. Capture of First Objective._

(_a_) Forming-up troops detailed to the capture of the first objective
will be deployed on the Forming-up Line one hour before zero hour.

(_b_) _Artillery Programme._

  (i) The field artillery 18-pdr. barrage will open at zero 200 yards
  in advance of the forming-up line. At zero plus three minutes
  the barrage will commence to advance; lifts will be 100 yards at
  2-minute intervals. There will be two lifts at this rate.

  The rate will then decrease to lifts of 100 yards every 3 minutes.
  There will be eight lifts at this rate.

  From the eleventh lift inclusive until the green line is reached
  lifts will be of 100 yards each at 4-minute intervals.

  (ii) The 4.5" Howitzer barrage will move 200 yards in advance of
  the 18-pdr. barrage.

  (iii) A protective barrage will be maintained in front of the green
  line until zero plus four hours. During this period approximately
  fifty per cent. (50%) of the guns remaining in the barrage will
  be employed in a protective line barrage; the remainder will be
  employed to search and sweep deeply into the enemy's position. At
  zero plus four hours all barrage fire will cease.

  Barrage Maps will be issued later.

_2. Capture of Second and Third Objectives._

(_a_) _Assembly._--5th and 4th Australian Divisions will select and
mark positions for the assembly of their troops.

These areas will be selected in liaison with Tank Commanders and with
the 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions respectively, to prevent movement
to them clashing with the approach march of these divisions and that of
the Tanks.

This requires careful co-ordination between each pair of Divisions and
Tank Commanders.

(_b_) _Command._--At zero plus four hours, responsibility for the
battle front will pass to G.O.C., 5th Australian Division, in the right
sector, and to G.O.C., 4th Australian Division, in the left sector.

(_c_) _The Advance._--5th and 4th Australian Divisions will time their
advance so that the leading troops cross the first objective (green
line) at zero plus four hours.

(_d_) From zero plus four hours the advance will be continued under the
conditions of open warfare.



1. A map is forwarded herewith showing the organization of the road
system in the captured territory.

2. The Chief Engineer will issue the necessary instructions for the
preparation of these roads for traffic.

3. All light traffic which is capable of moving across country will do
so and will avoid main roads.

4. Mule tracks will be a divisional responsibility.

5. Artillery advancing with the 5th and 4th Australian Divisions will
carry forward a proportion of bridges. Arrangements should be made
as soon as possible for the development of tracks, making use of the
routes taken by the artillery over these bridges.

6. The AMIENS--LONGUEAU--VILLERS-BRETONNEUX main road, as far east as
the cross roads in N.26.c., will be reserved for the exclusive use of
the Cavalry Corps from 9.30 p.m. on Y/Z night until 8 a.m. on Z day.
After 8 a.m. on Z day it will be available for the Australian and
Cavalry Corps.

Assistant Provost Marshal, Australian Corps, will arrange for the
control of the traffic on this road throughout.

Chief Engineer, Australian Corps, will prepare short avoiding roads at
the cross roads at N.26.c. to cross the north-east or south-west corner
to avoid congestion at this spot.



_1. Light Signals._

  (_a_) _Australian Corps._

  The following Light Signals will be employed in the Australian

  S.O.S. Signal, No. 32 grenade--showing green over green over green.
  Allotment 500 per Division.

  Success Signal, No. 32 grenade--showing white over white over
  white. Allotment 600 per Division.

A small reserve of each of these grenades is held at Corps Headquarters.

No other Light Signals will be laid down by Corps. There is no
objection to the use within Divisions of a Very Light for the local
indication of targets between Infantry and Tanks.

  (_b_) _Other Formations._

  Light Signals of other formations are as follows:

     _Formation._            _Signal._              _Meaning._

  (i) Cavalry Corps.    White star turning       "Advanced troops
                        to red on a parachute    of Cavalry are
                        fired from               here."
                        1½" Very pistol.

  (ii) Third Corps.     No. 32 grenade,          "S.O.S."
                        green over green
                        over green.
                        No. 32 grenade,          "Success signal,
                        white over white         _i.e._, we have
                        over white.              reached objective."
                        One white Very           "Barrage is about
                        light.                   to lift."

  (iii) Canadian Corps  No. 32 grenade,          "S.O.S." will also
                        red over red             mean (_a_) "We are
                        over red.                held up and cannot
                                                 advance without
                                                 help." (_b_) "Enemy
                                                 is counter-attacking."
                        No. 32 grenade,          "(_a_) Lift your fire.
                        green over green         We are going to
                        over green.              advance. (_b_) Stop
                        Three white Very         "We have reached
                        lights in quick          this point."

  _Remark._--In the case of (_a_) a smoke rocket (No. 27 grenade)
  will also be fired in the direction of the obstruction to indicate
  its position.

  (_c_) Special care must be taken by the Artillery on the right
  flank of the Corps that all officers and N.C.O.'s are acquainted
  with these signals, so that no mistake may arise as regards the
  difference in the S.O.S. Signals of the Australian and Canadian

  2. _Message-carrying Rockets._

  Allotment of Message-carrying Rockets is 80 per Division.

  3. _Smoke._

  (_a_) Artillery smoke will be as follows:

  (_i_) 3 rounds per gun will be fired during the first three minutes
  of the artillery barrage.

  (_ii_) 3 rounds per gun will be fired in quick succession on the
  arrival of the field artillery barrage at the artillery halt line
  covering the first objective.

  (_iii_) In the event of wet weather a small proportion of smoke
  will be used in the barrage to replace the smoke and dust caused by
  the burst of the shells in dry weather. This will not be sufficient
  to confuse the effect with that of the smoke shells prescribed in
  paragraph 3 (_a_) (i) and (ii).

(_b_) _Screening beyond the First Objective._

15th Wing, Royal Air Force, will arrange to screen the advance of the
Tanks and Infantry from special localities in advance of their first
objective by dropping phosphorus bombs.

Divisions and G.O.C., 5th Tank Brigade, will inform Australian Corps
Headquarters as early as possible of the localities which they desire

A map will be issued showing times at which it is anticipated that the
Infantry will make good certain zones. Phosphorus bombs will not be
dropped within these zones at any time after it is anticipated that the
Infantry will have occupied them.



1. _Battalion Intelligence Police._

One German speaker and two searchers will be allotted to each battalion
for use as follows:

  (_a_) _German Speaker._

  (i) To secure immediate identifications quickly, so that
  identifications will reach Corps Headquarters as speedily as
  possible of enemy units on the battle front.

  (ii) To secure immediate information required by the Battalion
  Commander as regards enemy dispositions, assembly positions, orders
  for counter-attack, etc.

  (iii) To be in charge of the two searchers and separate important
  documents, orders, maps, etc., translate and convey information of
  moment to the immediate Commander.

(_b_) _Two Searchers._

The two searchers under the German speaker systematically search the
battlefield, enemy positions, suspected headquarters, dead, etc., for
papers, documents, maps, etc., have them packed in sandbags, and sent
through the usual channels to the Corps Cage as quickly as possible.

This personnel should carry torches and, besides rifles or revolvers,
bombs are recommended as being useful for dealing with any of the enemy
who may be found in dug-outs.

2. _Divisional Intelligence Officers._

Divisional Intelligence Officers will go forward to an Advanced
Divisional Collecting Cage, with a view to obtaining, as soon as
possible, information of immediate tactical importance.

The Cage will be connected by telephone to Divisional H.Q., and
important information obtained should be transmitted as quickly as
possible to Divisional and Brigade H.Q.

The main points on which immediate information is required from
prisoners are: The Order of Battle, Units seen, Distribution of the
Enemy's Forces, Method of holding the Line, Assembly Positions,
Counter-attack Orders and Intentions.

This information will be wired to their respective Divisional
Headquarters and repeated to Corps Headquarters and Corps Cage by
Divisional Intelligence Officers.

Divisional Intelligence Officers will not detain prisoners longer
than is necessary to obtain this tactical information of immediate

In case a large number of prisoners are captured, they will detain only
one or two from each regiment, and will not delay the passage of the
remainder to the Corps Cage.

Any further information required from prisoners by Divisions or lower
formations can always be obtained by telephone from the Corps Cage.

3. _Searching of Prisoners._

  (_a_) _Officers and N.C.O.'s._

  Officers and N.C.O.'s will be searched as soon as possible after
  capture by a responsible officer or N.C.O., and all documents taken
  from them sent back with them (in sacks, labelled by regiments, if
  a number are captured) to the Divisional Intelligence Officer, at
  such place as this officer has prearranged.

  It is left to the discretion of Divisional Intelligence Officers as
  to what documents, maps, etc., taken from prisoners they hold back
  for the information of Brigade and Divisional Commanders. When this
  is done, Corps "I" will be informed by wire, priority if necessary,
  of the nature of the documents, etc., held back, and of any points
  of immediate tactical importance they may contain.

  As soon as possible after information has been extracted from them,
  the documents will be forwarded on to the Corps Cage. Arrangements
  can be made by Corps, if notified that documents are ready to be
  sent on, to fetch them by motorcyclist or cycle.

  (_b_) _Other Ranks._

  Prisoners other than officers and N.C.O.'s will be searched on
  their arrival at the Corps Cage. Their papers, etc., will be taken
  from them and put into sacks labelled according to regiments.

  (_c_) All ranks should understand that a prisoner's pay-book,
  identity disc, and personal belongings should not be taken from
  him. Escorts and guards will be warned to take special precautions
  to prevent prisoners from destroying papers.

4. _Separation of Officers, N.C.O.'s and Men._

Care will be taken that officers, N.C.O.'s and privates are all
separated from one another at once, and are not allowed to communicate
with one another. Prisoners who have been interrogated should not be
allowed to mix with those who have not yet been interrogated.

5. _Notification of Locality of Capture._

It is essential that, when prisoners are sent back, information be sent
with them which will show where they were captured. Information as to
the battalion which made the capture is a useful indication.

6. _Authorized Persons only to converse with Prisoners._

It is most important that no officer or N.C.O., except those duly
authorized, be allowed to interrogate or converse with prisoners.

7. _Prisoners of War Cage._

The Advanced Corps Cage will be situated at VECQUEMONT, N.11.b.8.7. and
the Rear Corps Cage at N.2.c.3.7.

Intelligence Officers and personnel will be stationed here, and will
carry out a more detailed interrogation and sort out captured documents.

The Advanced Corps Cage will be connected by telephone to Corps H.Q.

8. _Prisoners._

The following procedure will be adopted for the disposal of prisoners:

After capture they will be escorted to the Advanced Divisional
Collecting Cage, for examination by the Divisional Intelligence
Officer, who, after he has finished with them, will send them back to
the Advanced Corps Cage.

The sending back of prisoners should be carried out as quickly as
possible, and several escorts should be arranged for them to be passed
back without any unusual delay. Instructions should be issued to ensure
that too many men are not employed on escort duty.

In the forward area directing notices should be placed to show the
route to be taken to the Advanced Divisional Collecting Cage.

Traffic control personnel should be conversant with the method of
disposing of prisoners.

9. _Identifications._

The importance of passing on all identifications as speedily as
possible to Corps "I" cannot be too strongly impressed on all
concerned. It is essential that special efforts be made to wire at
once, as soon as identifications are made and the locality in which

10._ Maps and Photographs._

  The following maps are being issued:

  (i) A large issue of 1/20,000 No. 62.D. South-East regular series
  for distribution to all officers.

  (ii) 1/20,000 Map Message Form, for distribution down to N.C.O.'s.

  (iii) A small issue of 1/10,000 Maps of forward area only.

  (iv) 1/20,000 Barrage Map, for distribution down to Company

  (v) 1/40,000 Organization Map, together with notes on the enemy.

The following special photographs are being issued:

  (_a_) A Mosaic of each Divisional front, squared and contoured and
  freely annotated, for distribution down to N.C.O.'s.

  (_b_) Oblique Photographs of each Divisional front, for
  distribution to all officers.



1. _Contact Aeroplanes._

  (i) _Indication of position by flares._

  (_a_) Red ground flares will be used to indicate the infantry
  positions to contact aeroplanes. They will be lit by infantry in
  the most advanced line only.

  (_b_) A contact aeroplane will fly along the line of the first
  objective at zero plus 2 hours 30 minutes. Flares will be called
  for by the aeroplane sounding a succession of "A's" on the Klaxon
  horn and by firing a white Very Light. If the aeroplane fails to
  mark the line accurately, it will repeat its call ten minutes later.

  Should the infantry not have reached the line of the objective at
  the time laid down above, the contact aeroplane will return at
  half-hour intervals until flares are shown.

  (_c_) A contact aeroplane will fly along the line of the second
  objective at zero plus 6 hours 30 minutes. It will call for flares,
  and the same procedure will be followed on this objective as on the
  first objective until the flares are seen.

  (_d_) A contact aeroplane will fly over third objective at zero
  plus 7 hours, when the procedure laid down for the first objective
  will be observed until the flares are shown.

  (_e_) Divisions will organize message-dropping stations in the
  vicinity of their Headquarters.

  (ii) _Other means of identifying the position of the Infantry._

  (_a_) _Rifles._--Three or four rifles laid parallel across the top
  of the trench.

  (_b_) _Metal Discs._--Metal discs will be used as reflectors by
  flashing in the sun. This method has been successful even on days
  which have not been particularly bright.

  The disc is most easily carried sewn to the Small Box Respirator,
  and can be used in this way without inconvenience.

2. _Counter-attack Planes._

  (_a_) From zero hour counter-attack planes will be constantly in
  the air, with the object of observing hostile concentrations or
  abnormal movement.

  (_b_) In the event of an enemy concentration indicating a
  counter-attack, the counter-attack aeroplane will signal this
  information to the Artillery by wireless. In the case of a
  counter-attack actually developing a white parachute flare will be
  fired by the aeroplane in the direction of the troops moving for
  the impending counter-attack, for the information of the Infantry.

3. _Ammunition-carrying Aeroplanes._

  (_a_) Aeroplanes will be detailed to transport ammunition from zero
  plus 2 hours 30 minutes.

  (_b_) Vickers guns will display a white "V" at the point where
  ammunition is to be dropped. The arms of the "V" to be 6 feet in
  length and 1 foot in width. The apex of the "V" to point towards
  the enemy.

  (_c_) Ammunition aeroplanes will have the under-side of the lower
  planes painted black for a distance of 2½ feet from the tips.



1. _Divisions allotted to First Objective._

(_a_) _Consolidation._--As soon as the first objective has been
captured troops will dig in.

(_b_) _Troops holding present front line._--The brigades of 2nd and
3rd Australian Divisions holding the line on the night prior to zero
will remain in their battle positions until all troops detailed to the
attack have passed through. They will then be organized and prepared to
move to meet any emergency.

2nd Australian Division will be prepared to detach its brigade to act
in support of 5th Australian Division, and 3rd Australian Division to
detach its brigade in support of 4th Australian Division.

(_c_) _Reorganization of Troops on First Objective._--As soon as the
whole of the troops detailed to the capture of second (red line) and
third (blue line) objectives have passed through the line of the
first objective, 2nd and 3rd Australian Divisions will organize the
defence of their sectors on the first objective in depth in each
brigade sub-sector. Units will be reorganized, and those not detailed
to the defence of the line will be withdrawn into support and held in
readiness for eventualities. At least one battalion in each brigade
sub-sector should be withdrawn in this way.

2. _Second Objective._

_Consolidation._--As soon as the second objective (the red line)
has been captured, the position will be thoroughly consolidated.
Arrangements will be made to ensure a supply of engineering material
for this.

3. _Main Line of Resistance._

(_a_) When the third objective (the blue line) is attained, it will be
organized and consolidated as the main line of resistance.

(_b_) If the enemy is able to develop an immediate counter-attack, or
if he has a definite plan, and the troops available in close reserve
for the defence of the blue line, it may not be possible to reach
the third objective. In this case the second objective (red line)
will become the main line of resistance, and will be consolidated and
organized in depth accordingly.

(_c_) Definite plans will be prepared to deal with either case.
The Corps must be prepared, as early as possible, to fight a stiff
defensive battle on the main line of resistance.


1. The 5th Australian Division will move into its assembly area by
Brigade Groups as follows:

  "A" Brigade Group on the night 4th-5th August from MONTIÈRES
  to CAMON and RIVERY area. Quarters have been arranged for one
  brigade, less one battalion. Shelters will be drawn from Area
  Commandant, CAMON, for this battalion.

  "B" Brigade Group from ALLONVILLE area to forward area.

  "C" Brigade Group from VAUX area to ALLONVILLE area.

2. For the purposes of staging, POULAINVILLE will be included as one of
the battalion areas of the ALLONVILLE brigade area.

The camp in BOIS DE MAI has been allotted for the use of the 5th
Division nucleus.

It is left to the discretion of the G.O.C., 5th Australian Division,
as to whether the Battalion at POULAINVILLE moves on the night of 4th

3. On the night 5th-6th August the 5th Australian Division will
continue its move into its allotted assembly grounds in the forward

4. Rear parties are to be left in charge of all camps until handed over
to the Area Commandant.



1. The 17th Armoured Car Battalion has been placed at the disposal of
the Australian Corps, and will join the 5th Tank Brigade shortly.

2. This battalion is organized in two companies of eight (8) armoured
cars each. Each armoured car carries one forward and one rear Hotchkiss

3. One and a half (1½) companies are allotted to the 5th Australian
Division, and half (½) a company will remain in Corps Reserve.

The half company detailed to remain in Corps Reserve will select a
position of assembly in Square 0.26, and will occupy this position
by 9.30 p.m. on Y/Z night. During the action its orders will be
transmitted through the 5th Australian Divisional Signal Service. The
Commander will arrange with the 5th Australian Division accordingly.

4. As soon as the Battalion Commander or his representative reports to
the 5th Tank Brigade, he will be instructed to report to the General
Staff, Australian Corps, and then to Headquarters, 5th Australian



1. The 17th Armoured Car Battalion is being given definite rôles
in accordance with paragraph 3 of Battle Instructions No. 14. The
rôles assigned to this battalion may carry the cars forward for a
considerable distance into enemy territory, and may necessitate their
returning through other Divisional Sectors than that of the 5th
Australian Division.

2. British Armoured Cars can be recognized by the red and white band
markings which are similar to those of the British Tanks.

3. All troops will be warned of the possibility of our armoured cars
coming into our own sector, and of the way in which they are marked.



1. _Zero Hour._

Zero hour will be notified in writing from Australian Corps
Headquarters by noon on the day prior to zero.

2. _Synchronization of Watches._

Watches will be synchronized by officers detailed by Australian Corps
Headquarters, who will visit Headquarters in the following order,
leaving Corps Headquarters shortly after noon and 6 p.m. on Y day:

  (_a_) One officer to Headquarters Heavy Artillery, 3rd Australian
  Division and 4th Australian Division.

  (_b_) One officer to 2nd Australian Division and 5th Australian



1. The Air Forces which will operate on the Australian Corps front
during the battle will be as follows:

  (_a_) Corps Squadron--3rd Australian Squadron.

  (_b_) 5th Tank Brigade--8th Squadron.

  (_c_) The 22nd Wing, consisting of eight Scout Squadrons, which
  will be exclusively employed in engaging ground targets by bombing
  and machine-gunning along the whole Army front.

  (_d_) One night-bombing squadron--101st Bombing Squadron.

  (_e_) One Reconnaissance Squadron--48th Squadron.

Four additional day-bombing squadrons and three additional
night-bombing squadrons are being obtained from other Wings for
co-operation with the above, making 19 Squadrons in all.

2. _Low-flying Scouts._

The low-flying scouts of the 22nd Wing are being detailed on an even
distribution to the Corps front. They will operate in two phases, viz.:

  (_a_) From zero to zero plus four hours eastward from the green

  (_b_) From zero plus four hours onwards eastwards from the red line.

In each phase favourable targets will be engaged in addition to the
targets marked by the green and red lines.

3. _Markings on Planes._

The following will be the special markings of machines allotted to
special duties:

  (_a_) Contact patrol machines--Rectangular panels 2' by 1' on both
  lower planes about three feet from the fuselage.

  (_b_) Machines working with Tanks--Black band on middle of right
  side of tail.

4. _Ammunition-carrying Squadron._

Aeroplanes carrying small arms ammunition will drop it at points
as laid down in Battle Instructions No. 11, para. 3 (b). The first
ammunition-carrying planes will arrive over the battlefield at zero
plus seven hours.

5. _Aeroplane Smoke Screens._

In addition to carrying small arms ammunition, this Squadron will be
employed to drop phosphorus smoke bombs to obstruct the enemy's view.
The areas to be screened and the time at which the screening in each
case shall cease in order not to interfere with the advance of the
Infantry will be shown on a map to be issued later.



1. _S.O.S._

  (_i_) Each line division will arrange for four field artillery
  brigades, or an equivalent number of guns, to fire on S.O.S. lines
  at any time up to zero minus fifteen minutes.

  (_ii_) From zero minus fifteen minutes until zero hour S.O.S.
  arrangements will be inoperative.

2. _Heavy Artillery._

In the event of the enemy opening a gas bombardment on the
VILLERS-BRETONNEUX area, arrangements have been made for the
co-operation of the Canadian Corps Heavy Artillery in an artillery
counter-attack on enemy batteries. The Canadian Corps will deal with
the enemy artillery about WIENCOURT and MARCELCAVE. Fire will be
opened, on application, direct between the two Corps Headquarters.

G.O.C., R.A., Australian Corps, will arrange details with G.O.C., R.A.,
Canadian Corps.


These are not reproduced. They refer only to Wireless Code Calls
prescribed for all units.



1. Officers are detailed for liaison duties as follows:

  (_a_) At Canadian Corps Headquarters--Capt. SHEARMAN, D.S.O., M.C.

  (_b_) At Third Corps Headquarters--Major R. MORRELL, D.S.O.

  (_c_) With 1st Australian Division--To be notified.

  (_d_) With 2nd Australian Division--Major H. PAGE, M.C.

  (_e_) With 3rd Australian Division--Lt.-Col. A. R. WOOLCOCK, D.S.O.

  (_f_) With 4th Australian Division--Major G. F. DICKINSON, D.S.O.

  (_g_) With 5th Australian Division--Lt.-Col. N. MARSHALL, D.S.O.

2. The main function of the liaison officer is to relieve the Staff of
the fighting formation of the necessity of:

  (_a_) Supplying information to Australian Corps Headquarters.

  (_b_) Collecting information from Corps Headquarters for
  transmission to the formation for whom they are carrying out
  liaison duties. It is their function to save the Staff as far as
  possible, and not to get in the way. At the same time, they are
  expected to keep Corps Headquarters and the formation to which they
  are attached fully informed of events.

3. Direct telephone lines exist between Australian Corps Headquarters
and neighbouring Corps.

For the battle there is a special General Staff switchboard with direct
lines to 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Australian Divisions.

4. An information bureau will be established in a marquee to be erected
on the lawn in front of the Headquarters offices. Major W. W. BERRY
will be in charge of this bureau. It will be provided with a telephone,
writing material, maps, etc.

Liaison officers from other formation at Australian Corps Headquarters
will be accommodated in this marquee.

During the battle officers whose business does not require them to
visit the General Staff Office will make all inquiries at this office
for information as to the progress of the operations.



1. The First Cavalry Brigade, plus one company of Whippet Tanks
attached, comes under the command of the Australian Corps Commander at
9 p.m. on Y/Z night.

2. Its function is to assist in carrying out the main Cavalry rôle by
seizing any opportunity which may occur to push through this Corps

3. The First Cavalry Brigade will operate north of the AMIENS--CHAULNES
railway in conjunction with 5th Australian Division. It will move
from its assembly position in Square n.32 under orders of G.O.C., 1st
Cavalry Division, via the southern side of BOIS DE L'ABBÉ.

It will cross to the north side of the railway east of

It will push forward patrols to keep in touch with 8th and 15th
Australian Brigades.

After crossing the railway the main body of 1st Cavalry Brigade will
march roughly parallel to it, keeping close touch with the remainder of
1st Cavalry Division to the south.

4. If a break in enemy's resistance occurs, the remainder of the 1st
Cavalry Division may be employed in support of 1st Cavalry Brigade.

5. Command of 1st Cavalry Brigade will pass from Australian Corps to
the 1st Cavalry Division when the Infantry reaches the red line unless
the brigade is required in the area south of the Australian Corps to
exploit success gained before that hour. This will be determined by
G.O.C., 1st Cavalry Division, who will inform Australian Corps and 5th
Australian Division, and issue orders direct to 1st Cavalry Brigade.



1. Reference paragraph 1 of General Staff Memo. No. AC/42, dated 7th
instant, ZERO will be 4.20 a.m. 8th instant.


  Administrative Services, 12.

  Aeroplanes first used to carry small arms ammunition, 59.
    As noise camouflage, 105.

  Air Force, 13, 171.

  Albert, 30, 36, 79.

  Allied Offensive, Aug. 8th:
    Conference at Flexicourt, 73.
    Outline of plan, 73-80.
    Three phases, 84.
    Disposition of brigades, 93-94.
    Artillery calibration, 102.
    Tanks, 104.
    Armoured cars, 107.
    Intelligence Service, 112.
    Air Squadron, 113.
    Day before battle, 119.
    Zero hour, 4.20 a.m., 120.
    Guns begin, 121.
    First phase completed, 122.
    "Outwards" telegrams, 123.
    Enemy completely surprised, 125.
    Third Corps failed to reach objective, 126.
    Armoured cars, sensational report, 127.
    Guns and booty captured, 129.
    Ludendorff's comments, 130.
    General meeting at Villers-Bretonneux, 132.
    The King at Bertangles, 132.

  American Army's first great attack, 206, 259.
    First offensive battle, Hamel, 59.
    Second Corps, 235.
    To join Fourth British Army, 236, 243, 254.
    1,200 taken prisoners, 262.
    131st Regt., 136, 143.
    27th Div., 275, 278.
    30th Div., 275, 278.
    33rd Div., 52.

  Amiens, defence of, 26 _et seq._

  Anzac, First and Second Corps, 7.
    Corps, abolition of, 9.
    Day, 3rd anniversary, 37.

  Arcy Wood, 161, 163.

  Armistice requested by enemy, 280.

  Army Corps improvised, 2.
    Constitution and scope, 3.

  Artillery barrage, 228-229.
    Classification of, 12.

  Assevillers, 221, 247.

  Aubigny, 31.

  Australian Army Corps constituted, 9.
    United, 10.

  Australian Corps Headquarters, Bertangles, 35.

  Australian Soldier's high _moral_, 288.
    Adaptability, 291.
    Instinct for "square deal," 292.

  Australian Staff watchword, "Efficiency," 295.

  Australia's five Divisions, 5.

  Authie, 25.

  Bapaume, 198.

  Basseux, 24.

  Battles on grand scale finished, 281.

  Beaurevoir, 218, 258, 276.

  Bell, Maj.-Gen. John, 52, 136.

  Bellenglise, 219.
    Captured, 260.

  Bellicourt taken, 261.

  Bellicourt Tunnel, 219, 237.

  Bertangles, Australian Corps H.Q., 35, 52, 132.

  Biaches, 198.

  Bingham, Lt.-Col., 106.

  Birdwood, Gen., 9, 36, 40, 132.

  Birdwood, Gen. Sir William:
    Commands First Anzac Corps, 7.
    Appointed Commander Australian Imperial Force, 10.
    Appointed Commander Fifth British Army, 10, 40, 209.

  Blamey, Brig.-Gen., 296.

  Bony captured, 267.

  Bouchavesnes, 182.

  Bourlon Wood, 259.

  Braithwaite, Lieut.-Gen., 204, 221.

  Brancourt, 259.

  Bray, 137, 148, 155, 158, 195.

  Brie, 196, 198.

  Brigade reductions, 15.

  British Fifth Army, 40, 219.

  Brown, Corpl. W., captures officer and 11 men, 66.

  Bryce, Lt.-Col., 106.

  Bussy, 62.

  Butler, Gen., Third Corps, 73, 136, 221.

  Byng, Gen., 27, 134.

  Calibration, 102.

  Cambrai, 259.

  Canadians, 73, 75, 76, 115, 122, 129, 133, 134, 136, 139, 140, 198, 259.

  Canadian Troops, fixed constitution, 5.

  Cannan, Brig.-Gen., 27.

  Cappy, 137, 157, 166.

  Captive Balloon Service, 14.

  Carter, Lieut.-Col. E. J., 108.

  Cavalry first employed, 201.

  Cerisy, 136.

  Cessation of hostilities, 281.

  Chamier, 22.

  Château-Thierry, 72.
    End of German offensive, 72.

  Chipilly, 126, 136, 137.

  Chuignes, 152, 156.

  Churchill, Mr. Winston, 209.

  Clemenceau, M.:
    Speech to troops after Hamel battle, 62.
    After Aug. 8th, 132.

  Cléry, 170-180.

  Combles, 198.

  Commanders and Staffs, 16-17.

  Congreve, Gen., his first order, 26.

  Contact aeroplanes, 171.

  Cook, Sir Joseph, 55.

  Corps Cavalry, 11.

  Corps Commander's responsibilities, 4.

  Corps Conferences, 150.

  Corps Signal Troops, 11.

  Corps Troops, 11.

  Couin, 25.

  Courage, Brig.-Gen., 50, 106, 222.

  Couturelle, 24.

  Cox, Maj.-Gen. Sir H. W., 9.

  Crossing the Somme, plan for, 178.

  Cummings, Brig.-Gen., 29.

  Curlu, 170.

  Currie, Gen., 73, 132, 140.

  Dernancourt, 31, 33.

  Difficulties of Army in retreat, 280.

  Disorganized British retreat, 23.

  Division, the fighting unit, 2.

  Division I., 18, 34, 40, 43, 73, 117, 134, 139, 140, 146, 152, 166,
      203, 205, 221, 232, 243, 281.
    Last fight, 233.

  Division II., 18, 34, 40, 43, 65, 67, 71, 86, 115, 122, 135, 139,
      146, 165, 170, 184, 257, 266, 270, 275, 277, 279.
    Last fight, 279.

  Division III., 18, 20, 31, 37, 40, 53, 86, 115, 122, 126, 137, 142,
      146, 155, 158, 165, 170, 184, 191, 200, 201, 205, 235, 253, 261,
      263, 265, 268, 270.
    Last fight, 270.

  Division IV., 18, 24, 30, 33, 65, 89, 115, 117, 126, 137, 146, 164,
      203, 205, 221, 232, 233, 243, 281.
    Last fight, 233.

  Division V., 18, 34, 65, 76, 89, 115, 134, 146, 165, 169, 184, 193,
      235, 253, 261, 262, 267.
    Last fight, 270.

  Doullens, population prepare to evacuate, 23.
    First move, 22-23.

  Dummy Tanks, 223.

  Efficient Army more potent than League of Nations, 298.

  Elles, Gen., 44, 221.

  End of German offensive, 72.

  Enemy attack in the South, July 15th, 72.
    Comments on our successes, 66-67.
    Discover our movement South, 116.
    Move from Russian to Western Front, 20.
    "On the run," 168.
    Propaganda, 160.
    Reserves melting away, 42.
    Reserves absorbed, 206.
    Secure our "Recruiting
    Cable," 159.
    Withdraws in disorder, 170.

  Engineers, Companies of, 12.

  Estries, 258.

  Eterpigny, 196.

  Etinehem, 137.

  Fairfax, Lieut.-Col. Ramsay-, 106.

  Farewell Order to Third Division, 41.

  Farewell Order, 282.

  Feuillancourt, 185.

  Feuillères, 137.

  Fifth Army defensive unduly attenuated, 23.

  Fifth British Army, 21.

  First Australian Division, 5.

  First British Army attack, Aug. 26th, 198.

  First Order from 10th Corps, 25.

  Flamicourt, 191.

  Flanders' liquid mud, 18, 20.

  Flexicourt Conference, 73.

  Foch, Marshal, appointed Supreme Commander, 37; 142, 200.

  Fontaine, 169.

  Foott, Brig.-Gen., 196.

  Forty-sixth Imperial Division, 260.

  Foucaucourt, 169.

  Fourth Army enlarged, 204.
    British flank with French, 37.

  Fourth and Fifth Australian Divisions, 6.

  Framerville, 135.

  Franvillers, 27, 33.

  Fraser, Brig.-Gen., 173, 222.

  French Army's different outlook, 71.

  Frevent, 23.

  "Fuse 106" as wire cutter, 257.

  Garenne Wood, 157.

  Gellibrand, Maj.-Gen., 268.

  German attack, March 21st, 1918, 21.
    Propaganda, 160.
    Withdrawal general on all fronts, Sept. 4th, 205.

  Germany's "Black Day," 130.
    Crack regiments opposed to Australians, 183.
    Surrender due to military defeat, 287.
    Determining cause, breach of Hindenburg defences, 287.

  Gillemont Farm, 251, 267.

  Glasgow, Maj.-Gen., 158, 221.

  Godley, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A., commands Second Anzac Corps,
    7, 132, 136, 199, 204.

  Gouy, 262.

  Grimwade, Brig.-Gen., 30.

  Haig, Brig.-Gen. Neil, 201.
    Field Marshal, 54, 62, 132, 209, 250.

  Hamel, proposed operation against, 44-48.
    Battle of, planned, 51.
    Zero fixed, 56.
    Over in 93 minutes, 56.
    Official commentary, 57.
    Americans' first offensive battle, 59.
    No gas shells used, 60.
    Congratulatory messages, 61.
    M. Clemenceau's speech, 62-3.
    Dinner at Amiens to celebrate victory, 63-64.
    End of British defensive, 64.

  Hamel Wood, 33, 39, 44, 56.

  Hangard, 34, 36.

  Hargicourt, Zero hour, 5.20 a.m. Sept. 8th, 226.
    Red line reached before 10 o'clock, 232.
    Outpost line captured, 232.

  Haut Allaines, 200.

  Hautcloque, 23.

  Hazebrouck, 35.

  Headquarters of Army Corps, 11.

  Hebuterne, 25.

  Heilly, 28.

  Hem, 170.

  Herleville, 152.

  Hill 90, 157.

  Hill 104, 33, 36, 65.

  Hindenburg Line, 199.
    Purpose of, 214.
    St. Quentin-Cambrai section, 215.
    Germans' elaborate system of trenches, 217.
    Hargicourt line, 218.
    Capture of plans of German defence scheme, 219.
    Plan for attacking, 221.
    Machine gun barrage, 223.
    Dummy tanks, 223.
    Tapes for Infantry start line, 224.
    Direction boards, 225.
    Plan for further advance, 236-240.
    America's Second Corps in battle front, 242.
    Australian and American Divisions, 254.
    Mustard gas first used, 256.
    Destroying wire entanglements, 256.
    Disposition of Divisions, 258.
    Two phases, 258.
    Zero hour, 5.50 a.m. Sept. 29th, 259.
    Fifth Australians hung up, 261.
    Americans held up, 261.
    Forget to mop up, 262.
    Change of plan, 264.
    Enemy relinquish tunnel defences, 268.
    Collapse of the whole defences, 279.

  Hobbs, Maj.-Gen., 108, 169, 193.

  Hughes, W. M., 55.
    Message from, 61, 281.

  Hunn, Maj. A. S., 210.

  Infantry advance behind barrage, 229.

  Infantry Brigade reductions, 15.

  "Instantaneous" fuse, 257.

  Joncourt, 258, 267.

  July 18th, French and American counter-stroke, 72.

  Kavanagh, Gen., Cavalry Corps, 73, 132.

  King, the, at Bertangles, 132.

  Knob, the, 267.

  Knoll, the, 267.

  Labour Corps, 12.

  La Flaque, 129.

  La Neuville, 155.

  Last Australian battle in Great War, 279.

  La Verguier, 232.

  League of Nations less potent than efficient Army, 298.

  "Leap Frog" tactics, 81.

  Le Cateau, 281.

  Le Catelet, 218, 261.

  Leslie, Brig.-Gen. W. B., 9.

  Lewis, Maj.-Gen., 246.

  Lewis Gun detachments, 91.

  "Liaison Force," 143.

  Lihons, 135.

  Losses, comparison of, 289.

  Ludendorff's comments on Aug. 8th attack, 130.

  Lyon, Lt.-Col., 106.

  Maclagan, Maj.-Gen., 24, 26, 30, 52, 136, 221, 243, 247.

  McNicoll, Brig.-Gen., 24, 28.

  March 22nd, 1918, first move, 21.

  Marett Wood, 29.

  Martin, Brig.-Gen., 185.

  Marwitz, Gen. von der, 281.

  Maurepas, 198.

  Max (Prince) of Baden, 280.

  Mechanical Transport, 11.

  Méricourt, 133, 139.

  Mills's grenades, 248.

  Minor battles begun, 37.
    Result, 38-39.

  Monash, Lieut.-Gen., Sir John:
    In command First Australian Div., 5.
    Third Australian Div., 6.
    Australian Army Corps, 10.
    17th Imperial Div., 16.
    32nd Imperial Div., 16.
    27th American Div., 16.
    30th American Div., 16.
    Without orders, 23.
    Honoured by the King, 132.
    Hands over command to General Read, 279.

  Mondicourt, 24.

  Monster German Naval 15-inch gun captured, 161.

  Montbrehain, 278.
    Last Australian battle, 279.

  Montgomery, 132.

  Mont St. Martin, 275.

  Mont St. Quentin, 177, 182.
    Second Prussian Guards defend, 183.
    Captured, 184, 193.

  Monument Wood, 67.

  Mopping up, 229, 248.
    Result of neglecting, 252, 262.

  Morain, M., entertains British and French Army officers after Hamel,

  _Moral v._ material, 279.

  Motor Ambulance Corps, 12.

  Mound, the, 78.

  Mullens, Maj.-Gen., letter of appreciation, 31.

  Mustard gas, 78, 255.

  Nauroy, 218, 263, 267.

  Nielles-lez-Blequin, 20.

  Noise camouflage, 105.

  Nollet, Gen., 164.

  Noyons, 198.

  Officers and men, relations between, 293.

  Ommiécourt, 137.

  O'Ryan Maj.-Gen., 246.

  Partington, Major, 106.

  Pas, 25.

  Péronne, 148, 182.
    Enemy defence of, 183.
    Taken, 191.

  Poulainville, 129.

  Prince Max of Baden, 280.

  Prisoners, treatment of, 210.
    Excuses for surrender, 213.
    Cages, 209.
    "Pigeons" employed to gain information, 211.

  Proyart, 139.

  Prussian Guards hold Mont St. Quentin, 183.

  Quennemont Farm, 251, 263.

  Ramicourt, 277.

  Ramsay-Fairfax, Lieut.-Col., 106.

  Rawlinson, Gen. Lord, 35-44, 52, 72, 73, 96, 132, 166, 181,
    192, 221, 235, 236, 241, 250, 274, 278.

  Read, Maj.-Gen. G. W., 243, 278, 279.

  Reorganization of Brigades, 272-3.

  Repatriation of Australian Forces, 282.

  Results, analysis of, 284 _et seq._

  Rheims, 259.

  Robertson, Maj. P. R., 142.

  Roisel, 204.

  Rosenthal, Brig.-Gen., 24, 43, 67, 169, 192, 278.

  Rosières, 129.

  Roye, 133, 141, 198.

  Sailly-Laurette, 29.

  Sailly-le-Sec, 31.

  Second Australian Division, 5.

  "Set-piece" operations, 226.

  "Siegfried Line," 214.

  Skene, Brig.-Gen. P. G. M., 9.

  Smoke shells, 169.

  Smyth, Sir N. M., V.C., 9.

  Soissons, German withdrawal, 78.

  Somme Canal, 174.
    Line of, 148.
    Enemy retreat, 182.

  Somme, North, 34.
    Plan for crossing, 178.
    South, 34.

  St. Christ, 198.

  St. Denis, 190.

  St. Gratien, 33.

  St. Mihiel Salient attack, Sept. 11th, 206.

  St. Quentin Canal, 216, 232.

  Tanks, 14, 44, 48, 49, 91, 104, 276.
    Improved type, 48.
    Dummy, 223.
    "Star," 91.

  Teamwork, 150.

  Third Australian Division, 6.

  Third British Army attack Aug. 21st, 154, 198, 221.

  Time-table for successive Army engagements impossible, 153.

  Tivoli Wood, 170.

  Toulorge, Gen., 42.

  Treux Wood, 29.

  Tunnellers, 12.

  Underground shelters, galleries and dug-outs, German, 249.

  Vaire Wood, 39, 56.

  Vaux, 49.

  Vauxvillers, 133, 135.

  Verdun, 259.

  Vermandovillers, 169.

  Villers-Bretonneux, 33, 36, 37, 64, 67, 78.

  Visitors to Corps, 208.
    Lord Milner, 209.
    Mr. Winston Churchill, 209.

  Wackett, Capt., Australian Flying Corps, 60.

  Walker, Maj.-Gen. Sir H. B., 9.

  Warneton, early 1918, 18.

  Whippet tanks, 276.

  Wiancourt, 277.

  Wilson, Sir Henry, 132.

  Wisdom, Brig.-Gen., 143.

  Ypres, 260.

  Zero hour, Aug. 8th, 120.
    Hamel, 56.
    Hargicourt, 226.
    Hindenburg Line, 259.

  _Printed at The Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey._

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Transcriber's note:

Obvious errors of punctuation and diacritical markings were corrected.

Inconsistent hyphenation was made consistent.

P. 123: No correction made to "Sent at 2.5 p.m."

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