Pozieres: Echoes of a Distant Battle – 99 years ago today


Echoes of a Distant Battle
By Christopher Wray

Published by Cambridge University Press
As part of the Australian Army History series
RRP $59.95 in hardback
ISBN 9781107093485

Imagine this, 99 years ago today.

Shortly after midnight on 23 July 1916, those men of the 1st Division AIF who were to form the first wave in the assault on Pozieres crept from their trenches into no man’s land, and formed up in readiness for the attack. They lay in silent rows, as close as possible to the line on which the artillery barrage would fall, waiting for the order to advance. At thirty minutes after midnight the barrage crashed down onto the first line of German trenches, with the flashes of the shellfire lighting up the night sky for some 30 kilometres around the target area.

C E W Bean later described the artillery bombardment as ‘famous even among the many famous bombardments on the Western Front’. From Chapter 2, A Place of Sinister Name and Tragic Happenings, from POZIERES: ECHOES OF A DISTANT BATTLE by Christopher Wray.

And so began the battle of Pozieres. From July to September 1916, some 23,000 Australians were killed or wounded in the Battle of Pozieres. It was the first strategically important engagement by Australian soldiers on the Western Front and its casualties exceeded those of any other battle of the First World War, including Gallipoli. Yet it does not focus the modern Australian mind as Gallipoli does. Today, writes Christopher Wray, the view from the now peaceful town is ‘a picture of rural tranquility’.

Like its predecessors in this series from Cambridge, this is a well produced book with maps and photographs – it will be a pleasure to put it on your bookshelf, I am sure.

On a general note, there are in fact 27 titles altogether in the Australian Army History series published by Cambridge – twelve of the titles are listed at this link.

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