THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
21 July 2011
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, today encouraged Australians to commemorate the 95th anniversary of the battle of Pozires, in which Australians fought to capture the village of Pozires in one of our most costly battles on the Western Front in Europe.
The Battle of Pozires took place from 23 July to August 7, 1916 during the First World War. By the end of Australian operations around Pozires, which also included heavy fighting for nearby Mouquet Farm between 8 August and 5 September, the Australian Imperial Force had sustained more than 23,000 casualties including some 6,700 dead.
“The fighting at Pozires represented Australia’s first extended large scale operation on the Western Front and it has a special place in our wartime history,” Mr Snowdon said.
“It was from this small village on the Somme that soil was taken and sprinkled on the coffin of our Unknown Australian Soldier at his entombment in the Australian War Memorial on 11 November 1993.”
Mr Snowdon said the Battle of Pozires lasted 14 days and was a dreadful introduction to large scale Western Front fighting for Australian soldiers.
“At 12.30am on Sunday, 23 July 1916, the 1st Australian Division launched the initial attack and seized the German front line. Within an hour they had reached the main road through Pozires and by dawn the German counter attacks had began,” he said.
“The Australians held on – and over the coming days they captured further ground, but under heavy artillery fire suffered great casualties.
“Between 27 July and 7 August, the Australian Imperial Force’s 2nd Division fought to capture and then hold Pozires heights sustaining more than 6,800 casualties. This was the greatest loss ever suffered by an Australian division in one tour on the front line.
“In the latter stages of the Battle for Pozires, Albert Jacka, who had been awarded the Victoria Cross at Gallipoli, earned the Military Cross for his courage,” he said.
Mr Snowdon visited the Pozires battlefield this week as part of a tour to the Western Front.
“The Battle of Pozires will be remembered as part of The Australian Remembrance Trail along the Western Front, which aims to improve visitors’ understanding of significant Australian First World War battlefields.
“The Australian Government will provide for the establishment of a new interpretive facility at Pozires, which will share the Australian experience there in 1916,” he said.
Media note: For more information on the trail or to download historic images of the Battle visit www.dva.gov.au/media.
Minister Snowdon: Alice Plate 0400 045 999
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203