Charlton, Peter.


1st ed., 1986. Xiv + 318 pp., several photo-plates + maps. D.j., 23 x 16cm. FINE. Pozieres, according to British General Sir Harry Rawlinson, was the key to the Battle of the Somme. The tiny village and nearby windmill were objectives for the British Army on the opening day of the Somme, 1 July, 1916. Twenty-three days and three major attacks later, that ‘key’ was turned by Australian troops of the 1st Division. When the Australians withdrew five weeks later they had moved the front line forward by 1500 metres but at the cost of over 23,000 casualties. No battle in which Australian troops have taken part has ever exacted such a toll. Some Australians deserted; others shot themselves; more went mad. This book is a story of tragic strategic and tactical blunders, of incompetent and ignorant generals, of untrained yet enthusiastic armies committed to attack without hope and preparation. The author describes the fighting from the points of view of the British and Australian generals who planned the attacks and from the soldiers and officers who did the fighting. Using much previously unpublished official and personal material, he recreates the lives and deaths of ordinary soldiers and examines the impact fighting had on the conscription referendum of 1916 that split the Australian Labour Party.

Share this book