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Chapter 3 - A huge and horrible slaughter house

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2015

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Summary

It was now the turn of the Australian 2nd Division to enter the fiery crucible that was Pozières. The first intimation of what lay ahead had come when they detrained at a railhead outside Albert and ‘were perplexed by a peculiar odour in the air’. On asking locals what the smell was, they ‘were morbidly informed “Boo coo Australiè, fini Pozières”’. As the men of the 2nd Division approached the front they made their way through what had been no man’s land, ‘dotted with little wooden crosses’ marking where men had fallen, passing across what remained of the former German lines, although the trenches had been blown in, and ‘ammunition of all kinds, bombs equipment and clothing were scattered everywhere waiting to be gathered by the Salvage Corps’. Pushing on, they reached the outer edge of Pozières, where the new Australian trenches, in places little more than shell scrapes a few feet deep, lay within 800 metres of the new German front line. Years later Private Vic Graham remembered his introduction to the battlefield: ‘So this is the Somme!…Pozières that was, is no longer. Rubble desolates its site, trenches and the remains of their trenches and defences are littered as far as the eye can see. The rolling rises of the area only accentuate the fearful carnage of artillery and infantry attacks.’

The Australian positions now looked across open ground to a brown line of earth on the horizon line, some 500 to 700 metres distant, that marked a ridge, known as Pozières Heights, and which could be ‘identified by the pall of smoke and dust of the intense bombardment by the artillery of both sides’. The OG1 Line formed the first line of defence, while beyond, and just north of the main road, a pile of rubble marked the remains of the German strongpoint known as the Windmill. The OG Lines ran north-west from the Windmill, with a sharp dog-leg turn where the Ovilliers–Courcelette road crossed the OG Lines, known as the Elbow, and the southern section had been turned into a defensive trench line known to the Germans as Neuer Ganter Weg. Behind that, the OG1 Line followed the ridge to the north-west past the strongpoint at Mouquet Farm, to the Fest Zollern.

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Pozières
Echoes of a Distant Battle
, pp. 47 - 74
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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