Travels on the Somme Part Sixteen – Pozières Windmill

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For centuries, a windmill stood here on the crest of the Pozières Ridge.

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For the last hundred years, however, only this grassy mound, with the odd piece of shattered concrete protruding from it, has remained as a reminder of days gone by.

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Before we take a closer look, these information boards tell the story of the battle for the Pozières Ridge and what happened here at the windmill.

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I suggest you enlarge them.

Pozieres Thiepval

This 1916 trench map shows the German front line positions from Ovillers-la-Boisselle to Thiepval at the start of the battle (on the left), and the two major second line trenches to the north and east of Pozières on the right, referred to by the British as OG (Old German) 1 & OG 2.  The site of the windmill is marked adjacent to the road just beyond OG 2 in square 35.  To the left of the village, the trench system running from just south of Mouquet Farm down to the main road west of the village, known to the Germans as Hiegel, and later to the British as Western, Trench, meets the road at the strongpoint known as Gibraltar that we briefly sped past last post (near the numbers 147 on the map).  The west-east trench just below the name ‘Pozières’ was known as Pozières Trench.

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Following the withdrawal from Gallipoli in December 1915, the 1st & 2nd Divisions of the A.I.F. (Australian Imperial Force), after a major expansion in terms of numbers and supplies in Egypt, arrived on the Western Front in March 1916.

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For the next few months they spent their time in the relatively quiet sector up near the Franco-Belgian border known as the Nursery

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…before heading south to the Somme,…

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…moving into the line on 19th July, nearly three weeks on from the start of the battle.

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By shocking coincidence, later that very day, the Australian 5th Division, freshly arrived in France in June 1916, would suffered catastrophic losses, 5533 casualties on a single night, at Fromelles some seventy five miles to the north, the highest loss rate in any conflict involving Australian forces.  We shall visit the Fromelles battlefield later in the year.

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Back on the Somme, soon after midnight on 23rd July, the first wave of Australian troops crossed No Man’s Land to attack Pozières Trench.  Despite some success, and the award of two Australian VCs (see previous post), the British on either side of the Australians could make little progress, and over the following days the fighting degenerated into a series of bloody local assaults (and the award of two more Aussie VCs), designed to wear down the German defenders until conditions were right for the resumption of the main offensive.

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Difficult to get a decent shot of this relief map…

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…but this one enlarges well enough, I think.

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Away to the north…

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…you can see Courcelette British Cemetery.  Originally used between November 1916 & March 1917, by which time 74 burials had been made there, it was hugely expanded post-war, and now contains just under 2000 burials, nearly 60% of whom are unidentified.

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Across the road stands the Tank Corps Memorial, alongside a very tall communication mast which, along with the Thiepval Memorial, can be seen from much of the Somme battlefield, and as such is a very useful marker for visitors to the area.

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Panoramic view looking from north east to east, Courcelette British Cemetery on the far left, the village of Courcelette itself in the dip a little way to the right of the cemetery, and the Albert-Bapaume road on the right.  Note the two signposts on the road just where the car is passing; I’ll show you them later.

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This view looks south and south west, towards the British lines,…

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…this one west, the ever-present Thiepval Memorial on the horizon (above the furthest right piece of concrete),…

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…and this one north west.

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“It was captured on August 4th by Australian troops who fell more thickly on this ridge than on any other battlefield of the war”.  The Pozières windmill is a frequently visited place,…

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…a little outpost of Australia in the heart of Europe.

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As we cross the road to the Tank Corps Memorial,…

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…this view looks back towards Pozières and the water tank we saw last Somme post.  I believe that the land on the far side of the road between the tower and the ruins of the windmill is to be made into a memorial park.

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A hundred yards the other way, signs on either side of the road (the ones we spotted much earlier) mark the position of the front lines on 1st September 1916.

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Looking back at the site of the windmill (above & below).

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If you enlarge this picture you will again see the Thiepval Memorial looming above all on the horizon, to its right the white dots are houses in the village of Thiepval itself, and immediately above the right end of the hedge you can see some brown buildings which are the re-built Mouquet Farm.

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Looking north west along the site of the front lines, Mouquet Farm in the distance on the far left of the picture,…

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…and south east, Bazentin-le-Petit Wood on the horizon.

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And finally, once again looking back at the site of the windmill from the position of the front lines on 1st September.  But before we leave Pozières, it would be somewhat remiss of us if we didn’t properly pay our respects at the Tank Corps Memorial.

Update: Some further photographs taken at the site of the windmill during the Friends of Surrey Infantry Tour in May 2016:

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Pozières from the windmill site.

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Looking south west, back towards Pozières and the water tower (far left),…

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…west (the little wooden crosses are visible in both shots),…

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…south east, from the top of the mound, towards the Tank Corps Memorial across the road,…

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…and west again, from the same spot.

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Not forgotten.

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Panorama

On the far right, tour guide Philip holds court as co-guide Ian (in sunglasses) listens intently.

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View towards the two road signs that we saw earlier, marking the front line on 1st September 1916.

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As our coach pulls away, one final look as the next group of pilgrims arrive at the site of the windmill to pay their respects. Next: Pozières Tank Memorial.

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5 Responses to Travels on the Somme Part Sixteen – Pozières Windmill

  1. Sid from Down Under says:

    I’ve almost run out of superlatives for your posts, MJS – all I can say is magnifique

  2. Tim Hunt says:

    Dear Magicfingers,

    Do you have a email address I would be able to contact you on. I would be interested in using some of your images in a history publication.

    If you could please let me know if this would be something of interst to you, that would be great.

    Kind regards

    Tim

    • Magicfingers says:

      Hello Tim. I’m always open to new ideas or ventures, time allowing. I have your ‘Picture.Editor’ email address; shall I mail you on that?

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