The attacks on the Somme on 1st July 1916 were carried out by the Fourth Army under General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The plan had been to punch through the German lines either side of the Albert to Bapaume Road allowing a Reserve Army under General Sir Hubert Gough to pour through the centre with the cavalry.
For their part the 34th Division was ordered to advance along the main road, capturing La Boisselle, and on to within just under a kilometre from Pozières. Here it would join up with 8th Division clearing its way up from Ovillers. This was the location of the German’s Second Line. 8th Division would then advance on Pozières with the 34th covering their right flank.
The attack was made by men from the Tyneside Scottish and Tyneside Irish Battalions who were cut down in a hail of machine gun fire. The German defenders had been deep in bunkers throughout the bombardment and the shelling had failed to destroy the wire in front of the German lines. As the Tynesiders from 102nd and 103rd Brigades walked across to supposedly deserted and destroyed German trenches they were wiped out.
Such was the extent of the casualties that many of the eight battalions had all but ceased to exist by the morning of 2nd July 1916.
As a result of the events on 1st July across the battlefield General Haig instructed Gough to take over the area covered by VIII and X Corps north of the main road. This would allow Rawlinson to
concentrate on pressing home successes to the south and east.
The sticking point in the north was Thiepval and by 11th July 1916 it was apparent to Rawlinson that it was neither possible to exploit the advances to the east nor capture Thiepval whilst the village of Pozières remained in German hands.
On 14th July (Bastille Day) 34th Division made an attempt to take the village as part of a general attack. They managed to get up past Contalmaison on their right and reached the outskirts of Pozières where they were repulsed by the defenders. They did however manage to take and hold a chalk pit half a kilometre away from the southern edge of the village.
After a further heavy bombardment and another advance on the village the British Front line settled in a line running about 300 metres south of the village.
Haig now instructed Gough to increase his front to include Pozières. To assist him he was allocated I Anzac on 17th July 1916.
The Australians had arrived on the Somme.