Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 January 2015
On 21 July 1920 Charles Monaghan, who had served as a stretcher-bearer with the 8th Field Ambulance, wrote to ‘My beloved Em’:
Aye full well this is a week of anniversaries. In addition to the wonderful days of my homecoming, it is also the 4th Anniversary of the days a hundred thousand of us Digger soldiers first smelt war’s gunpowder and received our baptism of fire. Last Monday the 19th was the anniversary of the Battle of Fromelles when the 5th Division got horribly shot up, then tomorrow the 22nd, 4 years ago saw the big stint of Pozières launched. Shall I ever forget this night then, the eve of battle, we were – the stretcher-bearers, mobilised in a village about 7 miles [11 kilometres] behind the line. Darkness fell and each man was ordered to stand by to be ready to move off at a moment’s notice. The preliminary bombardment had already started and we could hear the shattering roar of the big guns posted in the rear not far from where we were (at midnight)…the…order came to move forward…At daybreak we had reached the area immediately behind the front trenches and were immediately in the thick of it. The next few hours I have only a nightmarish remembrance of.
Charles Monaghan would not have been the only person remembering the anniversary of the battle and the nightmarish scenes that had confronted him. Many other survivors would have looked back on the events of four years before, as they would continue to do for the rest of their lives. The survivors of Pozières, in common with others who fought in the war, were marked by an experience that those who had not undergone the trial of blood and fire could never comprehend.