The Battles of the Somme: the Battle of Pozieres Ridge (23 July - 3 September 1916)
By late July 1916, the limited advances at the southern end of the British line risked a dangerous narrowing of the attack front. The Battle of Pozieres Ridge represented an attempt to exert renewed pressure on the strategically important central uplands, notably around the vital positions of Thiepval and Pozieres. The principal responsibility for securing Pozières (and German positions on the ridge above) was entrusted to I Anzac Corps, part of General Gough's Reserve Army.
At 12.30am on 23 July infantry of the 1st Australian Division dashed towards the village, screened by an intense hurricane bombardment. Assisted by British 1st Division on the right and the 48th Division on the left, the Australians quickly secured their first objectives.
Subsequent consolidation of the village encountered violent German counter-attacks and continuous enemy shellfire. The 1st Division held on amidst intense fighting until relieved by the 2nd Australian Division on 27 July. Repeated efforts were then made to move up the ridge beyond the village towards the 'windmill' and the German second line positions on the crest, which, after a series of costly local assaults, was in Australian hands by 5 August.
Possession of the crest enabled Gough to direct a series of bitterly contested attacks - often hastily improvised - in the direction of Mouquet Farm. These were countered by bombardments and violent German counter-attacks, resulting in brutal close fighting with bomb and bayonet. Mouquet Farm was occupied several times but not retained.
Following the final Australian attacks on 4 September Canadian units replaced the Australian forces. Mouquet Farm did not fall until 26 September, following the seizure of Thiepval by the 18th Division.
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