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Category: Western Front

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Villers Bretonneux (3rd Battle of the Somme) (Battle of Amiens)   

There is still a very strong feeling in France that they owe a debt of honour or gratitude to the Anzacs. This is probably strongest in Villers Bretonneux. The logo is used on their official website. It is a kangaroo stylised from the letters V B or as they say les initiales de Villers-Bretonneux représentant un kangourou, l'un des symboles de l'Australie
A German tank captured by the 26th Battalion at Monument Wood near Villers-Bretonneux on 14 July 1918 and subsequently salvaged for the Australian War Museum by the 5th (British) Brigade of Tanks. An A7V Kampfwagen, this tank was known as Mephisto. For many years it was on display outside the old Queensland Museum.

Precis. In March 1918, the German people were close to starvation and growing tired of the war.  With the collapse of the Russian Front, and the imminent arrival of American troops to assist the Allies on the Western Front, German Commander, Erich von Ludendorff, decided to attack the weakest part of the British lines near the Somme River.  On 21 March 1918, "Operation Michelle" was launched and by 5 April 1918, the Germans had gained 60 kilometres of territory before their progress was halted.  

On 9 April 1918, another offensive "Operation Georgette" was launched against the British lines near Armentieres with the intention to push the British troops to the English Channel.  By 29 April strong resistance by the British had blocked the German advance.  On 27 May 1918, the Germans launched a third offensive near Reims and by July had reached the Marne River, 70 kilometres from Paris. 

Although the German army had made great advances, after three months of fighting their soldiers were fatigued and were weakened by an outbreak of influenza in June. The great advances had strained supply lines and the morale of the troops was lowered.  By mid July the German army was in retreat. 

On 8 August the Battle for Amiens (also known as the Third Battle of the Somme) commenced when a combined Australian, British and Canadian forced attacked the Germans eastwards from Villers-Bretonneux.  The offensive broke the German line so thoroughly that most of their field artillery was overrun and captured.  

  • The Allied troops advanced 10 kilometres on the first day of fighting which prompted Erich von Ludendorff to label it 'the black day of the German army'. By 11 August over 30,000 German prisoners had been captured.  At the conclusion of the Battle for Amiens on 28 August 1918,  the Australian casualty toll exceeded 6,500. 

Soldiers of 28th Battalion AIF in the front line trenches on the edge of the wood, a scene of much fierce fighting and bloodshed during its occupation by the Germans, who, at the time of this photo, had been forced by the Australians to evacuate the portion of the wood facing Villers-Bretonneux. The 7th Australian Infantry Brigade finally took the whole position in an attack on 17 July 1918.

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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces