Somme WWI Battlefields 2017
Footage and description of 13th Battalion AIF moving through German lines during WWI. My great uncle Malcolm Davidson Robertson DCM was captured during this operation, only a few weeks after being awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his action at Stormy Trench, during the Battle of Gueudecourt.
Starting at a memorial on the side of Rue de Bullecourt, just up the road from the 'Bullecourt Digger', we proceeded to a small private chapel, on a side road just outside of Riencourt-les-Cagnicourt (seen as Le Brullé on Google Maps), just past a sweeping bend of Rue de Clichy. From there we went to the starting point of the 13th Battalion in the First Battle of Bullecourt.
* In the video I say the trench remnant at the memorial is Stormy Trench. After further research I found a Canadian map that shows this as Grease Trench. At first I thought, possibly, they had given the trench a different name, as Stormy Trench was a German trench. Then I found a single map that actually showed both Grease and Stormy trenches, the latter being just in front of the former. I understand the A Company 13th Battalion AIF used Grease Trench as their starting point to take Stormy Trench, so it is still of great significance to me.
In 1916 the Newfoundland Regiment (Not yet part of Canada) suffered heavy losses taking Grease Trench, North East of Gueudecourt, France, during WWI. The remnants of which are here, hence the memorial.
In front of Grease Trench was Stormy Trench. In 1917 my great uncle, a member of 'A' Company of the 13th Battalion AIF, under the command of "Mad" Harry Murray VC, CMG, DSO & Bar, DCM (Then a Captain, winning his VC at Stormy Trench) took the trench and held it after numerous counter attacks.
For the Battle of Stormy Trench the following medals were awarded: 1 Victoria Cross, 3 Distinguished Conduct Medals, and 11 Military Medals.
The following is the citation of my great uncle Malcolm Davidson Robertson DCM.
He is a member of a Bombing Section in "A" Coy. and took part in the attack on STORMY TRENCH North East of GUEUDECOURT on night 4/5th February 1917.
After the position was captured and when the enemy was in the Section which lost its N.C.O. and all men but two, ROBERTSON and another, in the first shower of enemy grenades. ROBERTSON instantly took charge and making up his Bombing Section from the five nearest riflemen, he directed the Bomb fire, himself manipulating the rifle grenades. Then followed a fierce fight against an unusually stubborn enemy, throughout which ROBERTSON handled his men with wonderful coolness and courage in an extremely dangerous situation.
The enemy returned to the attack five separate times, and were defeated on every occasion, although ROBERTSON had to twice completely replace the personnel of his section during the fight owing to casualties. When the enemy finally desisted their efforts, ROBERTSON erected a barricade of sandbags and personally reconnoitered the whole of his front within bombing distance where there was any chance of the Germans taking cover.
In the first few minutes of the attack ROBERTSON was wounded in the face by a German bomb which burst close to his head. This is a wonderful example of bravery, initiative, command, and every soldier-like quality, especially for a private, and is a performance which in my opinion truly merits the award of the VICTORIA CROSS.
Lt-Col J.M.A. Durrant DCM (CO of 13th Battalion)
First, I apologies for the loud wind, I didn't have a fluffy attachment for the mic on my GoPro :-(
Footage and commentary about the Battle of Mouquet Farm, part of the Pozieres Offensive on the Somme. My grandfather was wounded somewhere between Mouquet Farm and the Windmill site. In the beginning of the video, below the Windmill Site, can be seen 6700 small white crosses marked out in the shape of the Rising Sun, the emblem of the Australian Digger. These crosses represent the soldiers who lost their lives in the Pozieres and Mouquet Farm fighting.
Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth War Cemetery in Belgium. The cemetery contains 2,098 burials, 1,600 of which are unidentified.
The burials consist of the following: UK 1026; Canada 651; Australia 292; New Zealand 126; South Africa 3
On 20th April 2017 my Somme Battlefield tour group was having lunch at St Hubert Cafe in Wijtschate, Belgium, when we ran into 3 crews of Belgian Bomb disposal officers. There were having a goodbye lunch for a colleague who was retiring, and a couple of them took us out to their truck and showed us their morning's work.
These guys still collect unexploded WWI munitions that farmers find while ploughing their fields. They estimate they still have about 70 years worth of work, as there are still so many unexploded bombs in Belgian and French fields.
British soldiers began burying their fallen comrades at Rue Pétillon in December 1914 and the cemetery was used by fighting units until it fell into German hands during the Spring Offensive of 1918. The Allies recaptured this sector of the front in September 1918 and when the war ended in November the cemetery was the site of twelve Battalion burial grounds. Many of those laid to rest here had died of wounds in a dressing station that was located in the buildings adjoining the cemetery, which were known as ‘Eaton Hall’ during the war. The cemetery was enlarged in the years after the Armistice when graves were concentrated here from the battlefields around Fleurbaix and a number of smaller burial grounds. A whole range of different Commonwealth units served in this sector during the war and the cemetery contains the graves of British, Irish, Canadian, New Zealand, and Indian soldiers, as well as over 260 men who were killed while serving with the Australian Imperial Force. Today over 1,500 war dead of the First World War are buried or commemorated here. (description taken from CWGC web site(https://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/...)
VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial - Fromelles, France.
This is the only cemetery on the Western Front battlefields where only Australian soldiers are interred.
The cemetery was established after the end of WWI. The remains of 410 Australian soldiers were brought here from the surrounding area. None of these soldiers could be identified, at the time. They were Australians and believed to have been killed during the Battle of Fromelles in July 1916.
It was decided to inter these unknown Australian soldiers in this cemetery without headstones. The names of Australian soldiers missing in action and known to have been killed during this battle were inscribed on the memorial wall at the north-eastern end of the cemetery.
The Battle of Fromelles, intended as a diversion for the British offensive on the Somme, is considered to be the worst 24 hours in Australian military history. By the close of fighting the Australian Forces had suffered 5,533 casualties in what was their first military action of the Great War on European soil.