Le Hamel

Australian Corps' New Commander

When Lt General John Monash took over command of the Australian Forces on 31 May 1918 it comprised:

The Corps had been formed by the amalgamation of ANZAC I and ANZAC I I

Monash was an Australian and like his counterpart, Currie of the Canadian Corps, not a professional soldier.

As an engineer by trade he tended to look at things from a different angle, and was meticulous in his preparations.

It was this attention to detail and preparedness to try new ideas that was to help gain his men a swift and noted victory.

A needed moral boost

After the Germans had launched their Spring Offensive in March 1918 - The Kaiserschlacht - it was felt by Haig and Foch that some sort of victory was sorely needed to raise spirits.

Looking towards Vaire Wood

Bois de Vaire

The retreat of Gough's Fifth Army had badly damaged morale amongst its troops. Following the demise of that Army with its replacement by the newly formed Fourth under General Sir Henry Rawlinson, Monash chose the ridge at Le Hamel for a well prepared attack.

Bois du Hamel

Bois du Hamel

The objective was to take the entire area between the Somme on the right and Vaire Wood and Roman Road 5 kilometres to the left.

Preparation

Monash gave the task to the Australian 4th Division and placed Maj General Sinclair-MacLagan in command of the operation.

Preparation was to be a key to success. Artillery requirements were satisfied with 326 Field guns and howitzers plus a further 313 heavy guns. This would allow a ratio of 1 gun for every 10 metres of front.

Just over a year before the Australians had had a disastrous introduction to working with tanks at Bullecourt. Now they were to have 60 of the brand new Mk Vs with them. This time the tanks would accompany the infantry rather than preceding them. A bell was fitted to the tanks so that infantry commanders could attract the attention of the tank crew and point out targets.

Four Squadrons of the newly formed Royal Air Force (1 April 1918) would provide aircraft for a number of purposes.

At this stage in the war the Allies had regained control of the skies and the RAF would conduct strafing and bombing missions against the enemy positions as well as being used to drop ammunition to the men as they advanced and messages to forward commanders.

 

The Doughboys

The plan was ambitious and because the Australians were under strength, American Soldiers from their 33rd Division were to take part. The Americans had been serving alongside the Australians who were conducting their training. In part to honour their involvement, Monash chose 4 July as the date for the attack.

When he heard about the plan the American's Commander: General Pershing was not happy, but eventually relented and on the day a thousand American soldiers took part in the battle.

The taking of Le Hamel The taking of Le Hamel
The Australian Memorial Park The Australian Memorial Park