POZIERES BRITISH CEMETERY
Pozieres Roll of Honour - Images of some of those buried and commemorated here
General Directions: The village of Pozieres was attacked on 23 July 1916 by the 1st Australian and 48th (South Midland) Divisions, and was taken on the following day. It was lost on 24-25 March 1918, during the great German advance, and recaptured by the 17th Division on the following 24 August.
Plot II of POZIERES BRITISH CEMETERY contains the original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances. The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918.
The following were among the more important burial grounds from which British graves were concentrated to Pozieres British Cemetery:-
CASUALTY CORNER CEMETERY, CONTALMAISON, on the road from Pozieres to Fricourt, used in the summer and autumn of 1916, which contained the graves of 21 Canadian soldiers, 21 Australian and 13 from the United Kingdom.
DANUBE POST CEMETERY, THIEPVAL (named from a trench and a Dressing Station), between the site of Thiepval village and Mouquet Farm. Here were buried, in the winter of 1916-17, 34 soldiers from the United Kingdom, mainly of the R.F.A.
NAB JUNCTION CEMETERY, OVILLERS-LA BOISSELLE, at the crossing of the Thiepval-Pozieres Road and "Nab Valley", in which 60 soldiers from the United Kingdom and one German prisoner were buried in the winter of 1916-17.
There are now 2,760 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 1,382 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There is also 1 German soldier buried here.
The cemetery is enclosed by the POZIERES MEMORIAL, which relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918.
The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died in France during the Fifth Army area retreat on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names.
The cemetery and memorial were designed by William Harrison Cowlishaw.
Victoria Cross: Sergeant Claud Charles Castleton, VC, 5th Coy. Australian Machine Gun Corps. Killed in action 29/07/1916, plot IV. L. 43. Son of Thomas Charles and Edith Lucy Castleton, of 18, Wilson Rd., Lowestoft, England.
Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette", No. 29765, dated, 26th Sept., 1916, records the following:-"For most conspicuous bravery. During an attack on the enemy's trenches the infantry was temporarily driven back by the intense machine gun fire opened by the enemy. Many wounded were left in "No Man's Land" lying in shell holes. Serjt. Castleton went out twice in face of this intense fire and each time brought in a wounded man on his back. He went out a third time and was bringing in another wounded man when he was himself hit in the back and killed instantly. He set a splendid example of courage and self-sacrifice"
Casualty Details: UK 1829, Canada 219, Australia 708, Germany 1, Total Burials: 2756
The Pozieres Memorial: Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery which is a little south-west of the village on the north side of the main road, D929, from Albert to Pozieres.
On the road frontage is an open arcade terminated by small buildings and broken in the middle by the entrance and gates. Along the sides and the back, stone tablets are fixed in the stone rubble walls bearing the names of the dead grouped under their Regiments.
It should be added that, although the memorial stands in a cemetery of largely Australian graves, it does not bear any Australian names. The Australian soldiers who fell in France and whose graves are not known are commemorated on the National Memorial at Villers-Bretonneux.
The Panel Numbers quoted at the end of each entry relate to the panels dedicated to the Regiment served with. In some instances where a casualty is recorded as attached to another Regiment, his name may alternatively appear within their Regimental Panels. Please refer to the on-site Memorial Register Introduction to determine the alternative panel numbers if you do not find the name within the quoted Panels.
The POZIERES MEMORIAL relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918.
The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918. The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names.
The memorial encloses POZIERES BRITISH CEMETERY, Plot II of which contains original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances. The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916 during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918.
There are now 2,758 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. 1,380 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them. There is also 1 German soldier buried here.
The cemetery and memorial were designed by William Harrison Cowlishaw. Sculpture by Lawrence A. Turner. The memorial was unveiled by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien on 4 August
Two images of the cemetery from the 1920's - Note the wooden grave markers stacked close to the memorial in the picture on the right
HERBERT GEORGE COLUMBINE
Rank: Private, Service No: 50720, Date of Death: 22/03/1918, Age: 24, Regiment/Service: Machine Gun Corps (Cavalry) 9th Sqdn. , Awards: V C, Panel Reference Panel 93 and 94., Son of Mrs. Emma Columbine.
Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 30th April, 1918, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice displayed, when, owing to casualties, Pte. Columbine took over command of a gun and kept it firing from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. in an isolated position with no wire in front. During this time wave after wave of the enemy failed to get up to him. Owing to his being attacked by a low-flying aeroplane the enemy at last gained a strong footing in the trench on either side. The position being untenable he ordered the two remaining men to get away, and, though being bombed from either side, kept his gun firing and inflicting tremendous losses. He was eventually killed by a bomb which blew up him and his gun. He showed throughout the highest valour, determination and self-sacrifice."
EDMUND DE WIND
Rank: Second Lieutenant, Date of Death: 21/03/1918, Age: 34, Regiment/Service: Royal Irish Rifles 15th Bn. , Awards: V C, Panel Reference Panel 74 to 76., Son of the late Arthur Hughes De Wind, C.E., and Margaret Jane De Wind, of "Kinvara", Comber, Co. Down.
Citation: An extract from "The London Gazette," dated 13th May, 1919, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 21st March, 1918, at the Race Course Redoubt, near Grugies. For seven hours he held this most important post, and though twice wounded and practically single-handed, he maintained his position until another section could be got to his help. On two occasions, with two N.C.O.'s only, he got out on top under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and cleared the enemy out of the trench, killing many. He continued to repel attack after attack until he was mortally wounded and collapsed. His valour, self-sacrifice and example were of the highest order."
Rank: Lieutenant Colonel, Date of Death: 21/03/1918, Age: 29, Regiment/Service: Manchester Regiment 16th Bn. , Awards: V C, D S O, M C, Panel Reference Panel 64 to 67., Son of the Rev. Canon J. G. Elstob and Frances Alice Elstob, of "Fanshawe", Chelford, Cheshire.
Citation: An extract from the "London Gazette", dated 6th June, 1919, records the following:- "For most conspicuous bravery, devotion to duty and self-sacrifice during operations at Manchester Redoubt, near St. Quentin, on the 21st March, 1918. During the preliminary bombardment he encouraged his men in the posts in the Redoubt by frequent visits, and when repeated attacks developed controlled the defence at the points threatened, giving personal support with revolver, rifle and bombs. Single-handed he repulsed one bombing assault driving back the enemy and inflicting severe casualties. Later, when ammunition was required, he made several journeys under severe fire in order to replenish the supply. Throughout the day Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob, although twice wounded, showed the most fearless disregard of his own safety, and by his encouragement and noble example inspired his command to the fullest degree. The Manchester Redoubt was surrounded in the first wave of the enemy attack, but by means of the buried cable Lieutenant-Colonel Elstob was able to assure his Brigade Commander that "The Manchester Regiment will defend Manchester Hill to the last." Sometime after this post was overcome by vastly superior forces, and this very gallant officer was killed in the final assault, having maintained to the end the duty which he had impressed on his men - namely, "Here we fight, and here we die." He set throughout the highest example of valour, determination, endurance and fine soldierly bearing."
No. of Identified Casualties: 14,654
The Battle of Pozieres -
The Battle of Pozières was a two-week struggle for the French village of Pozières and the ridge on which it stands, during the middle stages of the 1916 Battle of the Somme. Though British divisions were involved in most phases of the fighting, Pozières is primarily remembered as an Australian battle. The fighting ended with the Allied forces in possession of the plateau north and east of the village, in a position to menace the German bastion of Thiepval from the rear. The cost had been enormous for both sides and in the words of Australian official historian Charles Bean, the Pozières ridge "is more densely sown with Australian sacrifice than any other place on earth."
The village of Pozières, on the Albert–Bapaume road, lies atop a ridge approximately in the centre of what was the British sector of the Somme battlefield. Close by the village is the highest point on the battlefield. Pozières was an important German defensive position, the fortified village was an outpost to the second defensive trench system which had become known to the British as the O.G. Lines. This German second line extended from beyond Mouquet Farm in the north, ran behind Pozières to the east, then south towards the Bazentin ridge and the villages of Bazentin le Petit and Longueval. On 14 July, during the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, this southern section of the German second line was captured by the British Fourth Army of Lieutenant General Sir Henry Rawlinson. The possibility of "rolling up" the German second line by turning north now presented itself if Pozières could be captured. The British Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Douglas Haig, lacked the ammunition to immediately execute another broad-front attack after 14 July. Believing that Pozières and Thiepval would become untenable for the Germans as the British continued their eastward momentum, Haig ordered Rawlinson to concentrate on the centre between High Wood and Delville Wood as well as the villages of Guillemont and Ginchy. Meanwhile the plan was to maintain the pressure and take Pozières by a "steady, methodical, step-by-step advance". Between 13 and 17 July, the Fourth Army made four, small-scale attacks against Pozières with no success and high casualties. In this period the village was subjected to a heavy bombardment and reduced to rubble. On two occasions the attacking infantry got into the trench that looped around the south and western edge of the village, known as "Pozières trench" but both times were driven out. Attempts to get east of the village by advancing up the O.G. Lines also failed.
The Opening of the Battle:
Rawlinson planned to deliver another attack on a broad front on 18 July
involving six divisions between the Albert-Bapaume road in the north and
Guillemont in the south. Haig decided to transfer responsibility for
Pozières to the Reserve Army of Lieutenant General Hubert Gough which had
been holding the line north of the road since shortly after the opening of
the offensive on 1 July. The attack was postponed until the night of 22–23
July. To Gough's army were attached the three Australian divisions of I
Anzac Corps, which had begun moving from the Armentières sector. The
Australian 1st Division reached Albert on 18 July and despite the
postponement of the offensive, Gough, who had a reputation as a "thruster",
told the division's commander, Major General Harold Walker, "I want you to
go in and attack Pozières tomorrow night". Walker, an experienced English
officer who had led the division since Gallipoli, would have none of it and
insisted he would attack only after adequate preparation. Consequently the
attack on Pozières once more fell in line with the Fourth Army's attack on
the night of 22–23 July. The plan called for the Australian 1st Division to
attack Pozières from the south, advancing in three stages half an hour
apart, while north of the Albert-Bapaume road, the British 48th (South
Midland) Division (British X Corps) would attack the German trenches west of
the village. The village and surrounding area was defended by elements of
the German 117th Division. Early on 22 July the Australian 9th Battalion
attempted to improve its position by advancing up the O.G. Lines towards the
road but was repulsed. The preparation for the attack involved a thorough
bombardment of the village and the O.G. Lines lasting several days. The
bombardment included phosgene and tear gas. The infantry were scheduled to
go in at 12:30 a.m. on 23 July, the attack being made by the Australian 1st
and 3rd Brigades. The infantry had crept into no man's land, close behind
the bombardment and when it lifted the German trenches were rushed. The
first stage took the Pozières trench that ringed the village to the south.
The Battle Continues:
The second stage saw the Australians advance to the edge of the village, amongst what remained of the back gardens of the houses lining the Albert-Bapaume road. The third stage brought the line to the Albert–Bapaume road. The few survivors from the German garrison retreated to the northern edge of the village or into the O.G. Lines to the east. It was also intended that the O.G. Lines would be captured as far as the road, but here the Australians failed, partly due to strong resistance from the German defenders occupying deep dugouts and machine gun nests, and partly due to the confusion of a night attack on featureless terrain, the weeks of bombardment had reduced the ridge to a field of craters and it was virtually impossible to distinguish where a trench line had run. The failure to take the O.G. Lines made the eastern end of Pozières vulnerable and so the Australians formed a flank short of their objectives. On the western edge of the village, the Australians captured a German bunker known as "Gibraltar". During 23 July, some Australians went prospecting across the road. They captured a number of Germans and with minimal effort occupied more of the village. That night the 8th Battalion of the Australian 2nd Brigade, which had been in reserve, moved up and secured the rest of the village. The attack of the 48th Division on the German trenches west of Pozières achieved some success. However, the main attack by the Fourth Army between Pozières and Guillemont was a costly failure.
Success on the Somme came at a
cost which at times seemed to surpass the cost of failure, and for the
Australians, Pozières was such a case. As a consequence of being the sole
British gain on 23 July, Pozières became a focus of attention for the
Germans. Forming as it did a critical element of their defensive system, the
German command ordered that it be retaken at all costs. Three attempts were
made on 23 July but each was broken up by the British artillery or swept
away by machine gun fire. Communication was as difficult for the Germans as
it was for the British, and it was not until 7:00 a.m. 24 July that they
received their confirmation that Pozières had been lost. With British
activity now declining elsewhere on its front, the German IV Corps, on whose
sector Pozières lay, was able to concentrate most of its artillery against
the village and its approaches. Initially the bombardment was methodical and
relentless without being intense. Known trenches and strong points, such as
the "Gibraltar" bunker, received shell after shell. The western approach to
the village, which led from Casualty Corner near the head of Sausage Valley,
received such a concentration of shellfire that it was thereafter known as
"Dead Man's Road". The German bombardment intensified on 25 July in
preparation for their next counter-attack to retake the village.
Assaulting the O. G. Lines:
Since taking over the Pozières
sector, General Gough's plan had been to drive a wedge behind (east of) the
German fortress of Thiepval. Having secured Pozières and the neighbouring
section of the O.G. Lines, the attack now moved to the next phase; a drive
north along the ridge towards the German strongpoint of Mouquet Farm which
protected the rear of Thiepval. I Anzac Corps would carry the advance along
the ridge while, on their left, British II Corps would keep in line,
systematically reducing the Thiepval salient. Initially the task fell to the
Australian 4th Division, which had already suffered 1,000 casualties
resisting the final German counter-attack, but both the Australian 1st and
2nd Divisions would be called on again, followed once more by the 4th
Division. When the Australians' ordeal on Pozières ridge was over in
September, they were replaced by the Canadian Corps who would hold this
sector for the remainder of the Somme fighting. The O.G. Lines east of the
village became the Canadian start line for the Battle of Flers–Courcelette.
Battle details: Wikipedia
The cemetery entrance pictured in the 1920's.