Apologies for an ‘off topic’ and several days belated, but I felt it important to make mention of the Battle of Hamel, France, July 4, 1918 - 100 years ago this week.
A “small” but significant battle for several reasons; first of all, commanded by Australian, Lt General John Monash, a civil engineer in his civilian profession, the first Australian to Plan and Command a Western Front Battle.
Secondly, it brought together for the first time (but certainly not the last) Australian and American troops, literally shoulder to shoulder in the trenches.
Monash was very protective of his troops and sickened at the previous slaughters that had taken place. With his engineers mind he adopted a battle plan which for the first time coordinated various services and provided effective communications between them.
His plan combined a creeping barrage, staying ahead of the advancing troops, a feint attack taking place elsewhere and support from British Tanks and Australian and British aircraft not only in offensive roles but to supply stores and ammunition (for the first time employing parachute drops) and in the case of the Tanks, transporting the wounded.
Infantry, including the 43rd Battalion, Australian Imperial Force (AIF),from my home state, South Australia, my Grandfather among them, were strengthened by elements of the newly arrived US 33rd (Illinois) Division of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), the idea being that the battle hardened ‘Diggers’ would impart some knowledge to the ‘Doughboys’.
The battle proceeded exactly as Monash had planned and the village secured 93 minutes later (3 more minutes than Monash had predicted!)
The following day the Germans mounted a fierce counter attack, commencing with a poison gas barrage then later followed by a spirited attack by a Storm Troop battalion on the village. The Australians and Americans retaliated with gusto and repelled the counter attack with the use of Trench Clubs and Grenades.
The template of this battleplan was later used in the much larger battle for Amiens. The battle of Hamel is considered one of the major turning points for the Allied victory.
The British awarded 14 Gallantry medals to US servicemen for their part in the battle. Two Australians were awarded the Victoria Cross.
2000 Germans were killed and 1600 captured along with a vast array of weaponry.
Some 800 Australians and 20 Americans were killed at Hamel.
Lest we forget